Power between evaluator and community: research relationships within New Mexico's healthier communities

Soc Sci Med. 1999 Jul;49(1):39-53. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(99)00073-8.

Abstract

The relationship between evaluators and communities has been changing in the last two decades to a model of research 'with' the community, instead of research 'on' the community. This shift has paralleled increasing community demands for accountability and authority as community participation rhetoric has given way to words such as partnership, collaboration and community empowerment. Despite the rhetoric, there has been little reflection on the problematic and contradictory relationships between communities and researchers, specifically as related to their differing positions of power. This article provides a reflective examination of the contested power dynamics of the research relationship within a participatory evaluation process of the Healthier Communities initiative in New Mexico. An in-depth literature review of the philosophical principles and the complex realities of evaluations based on participatory, community-driven and post-modern inquiry precedes the case study. Without ongoing consideration of power issues, the article argues that evaluation design, implementation and utilization of findings will be compromised.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Planning
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • New Mexico
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Power, Psychological*