How would we know what works? Context and complexity in the evaluation of community involvement
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In 2002 the UK Home Office commissioned a review of research on community involvement in area-based initiatives. This found comparatively few studies that set out to measure the impact rather than the extent and nature of involvement and hence few answers to the question of what works. This article takes that finding as its starting point and sets out to develop a more robust framework for evaluating the impact of community involvement. It notes the difficulties inherent in using a classic experimental design to evaluate processes as complex as community involvement and proposes a theory-based approach. To this end, it critically reviews the underlying theoretical claims of both community involvement and of area-based initiatives. An evaluation framework is then developed in which the potential benefits of greater involvement are considered for each stage of the process of developing an area-based initiative and positive and negative contextual factors are identified.