Self-evaluation is an essential ingredient in the growth and development of community and voluntary organizations. It is not an optional extra but should be an integral part of the work of all groups. This entry explores and clarifies the following headings:

  • What is self-evaluation?
  • The role of self-evaluation
  • Self-evaluation of the overall organization and
  • Self-evaluation of specific pieces of work.

What is self-evaluation?

To understand what self-evaluation is we need first define evaluation.

Evaluation is the systematic and structured process of reviewing an experience, determining its worth or value and deciding what needs to be changed or further developed.

There are two major categories of evaluation:

  • external evaluation and
  • self-evaluation.

External evaluation versus Self-evaluation

External evaluation is an independent evaluation undertaken by someone outside the organization. The evaluation may be commissioned by the organization itself or by an outside body, for example a current or potential funder. The terms of reference for an external evaluation are usually set by whoever commissions the work.

Self-evaluation is an internal process of self-reflection in order to assess the value of the work of the organization and to plan for future developments.

The management committee, staff and participants se the terms of reference, i.e., the purpose of the evaluation, what they want to evaluate, how it will be done, who will be involved and how the results will be used. Self-evaluation should answer the questions:

  • “How are we doing?”;
  • “Are we accomplishing what we set out to do?”; and
  • “How can we improve what we are doing”?

Self-evaluation does not necessarily mean that the organization does all the work of the evaluation itself. Often the organization contracts an outside evaluator to help plan the process of self-evaluation and/or to facilitate and write up all or part of the evaluation.