The CMHA Ontario project Minding Our Bodies: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Mental Health was the focus of a study examining the instrumental use of internal evaluation findings by community mental health organizations, recently published in the journal Evaluation and Program Planning.
. Between 2008 and 2013, the Minding Our Bodies project built capacity within community mental health agencies in Ontario to plan, implement and evaluate physical activity and healthy eating programs for people living with mental health issues. A total of 32 organizations were provided with training and support to design and evaluate their own programs. The study author conducted follow-up interviews with 19 of those organizations between November 2012 and April 2013, to find out what factors influenced how they used their evaluation findings.
While internal evaluations are commonplace, research literature tends to focus on external evaluations. The Minding Our Bodies study contributes a new exploration of the factors that affect the instrumental use of findings from internal evaluations carried out by program staff in community mental health agencies. While evaluation results can be used in various ways, “instrumental use” is defined as the direct use of findings to make decisions or solve problems, including changes to programs.
According to the study, all but one organization reported using their internal evaluation findings to make program-related decisions. Several factors influenced the use of findings, including the level of credibility and trust that the internal evaluator’s role and expertise inspired within their organization, their ability to identify relevant information arising from the evaluation, and the consistency of findings with pre-existing knowledge about the value of health and wellness programs for their clients.
While external evaluators are often valued for their objectivity, the Minding Our Bodies study indicates that internal evaluators may possess other forms of credibility within their organization that can increase the use of evaluation findings.
See Anna Yusa, Michaela Hynie and Scott Mitchell, “Utilization of internal evaluation results by community mental health organizations: Credibility in different forms,” Evaluation and Program Planning 54 (2016) 11-18. Free online access to the study is available until Dec. 11 on the Science Direct website..
For more information about Minding Our Bodies, visit the program website..