Principles-Focused Evaluation is an innovative approach to program evaluation that measures results while allowing for contextual flexibility. According to Utilization-Focused Evaluation, principles-focused thinking is for principles-driven people engaged in principles-based change. An effectiveness principle provides guidance about how to think or behave toward some desired result (either explicit or implicit) based on norms, values, beliefs, experience, and knowledge. A high-quality principle provides guidance about what to do, is useful for informing decisions and actions, provides inspiration as an expression of values, is relevant to diverse contexts and situations, and can be evaluated. Evaluating a principle involves examining its meaningfulness to those expected to follow it, whether it is being adhered to in practice, and, if adhered to, whether it leads to desired results. For more information on principles, check out Principles-Focused Evaluation, The Guide.
Principles-focused evaluations ask:
What principles guide program or initiative decisions and inform choices?
Under what contexts and with what results?
Unlike moral or natural principles, effectiveness principles spotlight the what, why, when, how, who and where dimensions of a program or initiative. Because principles are specified in these ways, they can be evaluated based on their ability to guide actions such as program development, program implementation, and systems change. This approach allows program evaluators to use multiple tools in data collection with the goal of measuring the meaningfulness, adherence, and impact of the codified guiding principles in addition to measuring the results (outcomes) associated with principles-centered practice and decision making. Principles-guided practice is at the heart of trauma-informed and culturally responsive care, which involves working in a way that repairs past harm, does not perpetuate or reinforce traumatic experiences and responses and actively addresses racial and gender disparities. They are needed to provide clear guideposts, allow for different—but not conflicting interpretations—and distill collective insights from years of experience. The Promising Futures Guiding Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children, Youth, and Parents Impacted by Family Violence (Guiding Principles) builds on previous discussion papers to improve outcomes for children experiencing domestic violence. The Guiding Principles are designed to inform program development, intervention, and evaluation in programs that serve children, youth, and parents overcoming domestic violence as well as those who use violence.
The Guiding Principles include:
These Guiding Principles promote a culture of equity, safety, empowerment, healing and accountability in serving domestic violence impacted children and their families.
Promising Futures is currently implementing a 4-year Principles Focused cross site evaluation of the current 26 Specialized Services for Abused Parents and Children grantees to assesses whether the 7 Guiding Principles are clear, meaningful, and actionable; whether they are being followed, and if so, whether they are producing the desired results across grantee sites. In this manner we hope to contribute valuable and replicable knowledge to the field about what it takes to be trauma-informed and culturally responsive in addressing the negative impacts of violence on children and their families.