Learn from us!  Evaluation Workshops

Through the Effective Measures project, the Social Planning Council offers workshops in evaluation and data use; the cost is on a sliding scale. Most of these workshops are 2 hours long. They can be customized to respond to the evaluation needs of your organization.

Please contact April Carrière at aprilc@spcottawa.on.ca to obtain more information about workshops.


Evaluation for everyone

This is an introduction to program evaluation – why do it, who it is for, steps in an evaluation, and integrating evaluation with other processes in your organization. Everyone uses some kind of evaluative thinking in their work; we will build on that.


How to evaluate anything, starting with chocolate chip cookies 

This fun workshop uses an everyday-type experience, evaluating chocolate chip cookies, to learn about using evaluative criteria, standards and judgment. It is a good introduction to evaluation.


Results chains and logic models: Connecting what you do with the change you want to see

This workshop will help you articulate the logic of how your activities lead to the changes you want to achieve. We will look at both logic models and theories of change, and how to choose which approach is best in a particular situation.


Introduction to using data 

The systematic collection of information is a major element of evaluation. This workshop provides an overview of different types of quantitative and qualitative data used in evaluation, and how to collect them. We will also look at some of the basics of survey design.


Telling your story with data

Stories engage people, so they can be a powerful way of communicating. But they can be dismissed as “just a story”. This workshop will focus on using both quantitative (numbers and statistics) and qualitative data to create a strong and credible story as part of an evaluation.


Evaluation for program development and improvement

Evaluation is not just for funders! Evaluative inquiry can be used to inform decisions, improve programs, or develop new directions. Evaluation can help answer the questions “are we doing things right?” and “are we doing the right things?”


Evaluating volunteer programs

This workshop is about specifically evaluating a volunteer program, rather than the broader program or organization of which it is a part. Every organization that works with volunteers tracks basic information like the number of volunteer hours. This workshop will go more deeply into how to evaluate the contribution of volunteers. We will talk about how evaluation can support and improve a volunteer program.


Evaluating arts programs

This workshop is for people working in the arts or in arts education. Evaluating creative programs can be done creatively, while also incorporating conventional evaluation tools. The workshop will cover:

  • Why evaluate arts programs?
  • Articulating outcome goals – what would success look like?
  • What can be measured?  how to collect data?
  • Using evaluation findings, and developing a learning culture.


Developing an evaluation framework and indicators

An evaluation framework is the plan for an evaluation. This workshop will focus on creating an evaluation matrix, which is a summary table of the evaluation questions and the data which will be used to answer them. Indicators are data that tell you something about a program or its outcomes; we will look at how to choose relevant and feasible indicators to include in the evaluation matrix.


Results Based Accountability

Learn how to use Results Based Accountability to tell the story of your program or community initiative. This introductory workshop covers key RBA concepts, including: establishing a common language for evaluation; population and program level accountability; ‘Turning the Curve’ steps for programs; and identifying performance measures for programs.


Survey Design

Surveys are a very popular means of collecting information from clients and community members. They are able to capture both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (stories) data. The focus of this workshop will be to help organizations and agencies develop a variety of surveys, keeping in mind the goal, the target population, timing, and mode.


Moving Beyond Surveys: other methods of collecting data

While surveys are popular, clients and communities can be overwhelmed and frustrated by the number of surveys they have to fill in to access surveys and programs. This workshop provides some viable alternatives, including administrative data, observation, interviews, focus groups, and the arts.


Methods of collecting data from Children and Youth

This workshop outlines various methods that can be used to collect data from children ages 2+. These include journals, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and artwork. This workshop also highlights some valuable resources including the HIGH FIVE framework and the Literacy Kit (available through the Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative).


Most Significant Change

This participatory monitoring and evaluation technique can help evaluators identify what change happened and what matters to participants and stakeholders. The process involves collecting stories from participants and having a group process the stories to learn what is important to people and why. This technique can complement any evaluation framework.


Mapping Literacy: Social Impact Mapping as a Community Evaluation Tool

Maps are an excellent visual that can help support any evaluation. They can be used in many different ways including: exploring community structure, organisations and processes; identifying different social groups using locally defined criteria; discussing social inequities; identifying location, access and use of key resources; and identifying which community members are most vulnerable (crime, victimization, mental health, etc.).


Ripple Effect Mapping

Learn about Ripple Effect Mapping – a qualitative and participatory data collection method that can be used to show the different, and often unexpected, impacts of a program, project or intervention over a period of time.

Online Tools:  A Community Research Guide

This guide was born as a result of the experience of the Social Planning Council of Ottawa (SPC), assisting community organizations and individuals in the community with their research projects.   Through this process, SPC identified the need of research capacity building in the community and developed the Community Research Collaborative Initiative (CRC), which is the base of the present guide.  The objective of this guide is to assist the community in carrying out their own research on issues that are important to them and be able to use their research findings to support their work in the community and promote change.

One new module will be released each month, for 10 months.  All modules will be available here, free of charge, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

This guide was developed in collaboration with Carleton University.




About this guide

The guide is made up of 10 modules that offer something for everyone.  You can use this guide if you are a beginner in the research process or if you have done some research and are interested in learning more about it.   Whatever your interest may be, this guide will brief you on research practices you can use in the community and will assist you in starting your project, keeping it going and bringing it to completion.

This guide is designed to give you the basic tools and information to help you carry out your community research project –whether it would be small or large.  We are referring to research in the different forms it takes on, for example, reviewing findings of existing research studies or conducting your own program evaluation or needs assessment.  Becoming involved in research will help you connect with the community as well encourage others to become involved in the process.

What will the guide do for me?

Whether you are a grassroots organization, a community member, a local health agency, or a student involved in community research, this toolkit will enhance your research skills.  As well, it will increase your ability to focus on the community context.  This guide is designed to help you formulate a research question, to decide which methods would be best in your research, and what is needed to undertake a research study.  In the end, you will be able to report on your findings and disseminate them in a way that best meets the needs of the community.   Your research findings will help you to promote awareness of a need present in your community and decide how it could be addressed.  It could also assist you in documenting successes, e.g. best practices and lessons learned that you could share with other groups.

Obstacles in doing Research

Many community organizations do not have the time or the resources to do research, even though they see the need to carry out more research.  These are some of the main obstacles that communities face when they want to do their own research.  We recognize this struggle and hope that this guide will help you to overcome some of these challenges by guiding your research process.  Furthermore, your research project could be a collaborative effort involving a volunteer, a student placement, or a partnership with another organization.  Sometimes it can be tough getting started, but having the right tools available and the time allocated will assist your research efforts and allow you to complete your project successfully.

How do I use this guide?

The toolkit has been broken down into steps which will guide you through the research process. The information provided in the guide has been selected based on its applicability to community research.  We recommend that you follow the steps carefully because they will help you to keep your work organized.  They will also assist you in tackling your research project in the most efficient way possible.  The links provided in this guide will expand the information provided on particular areas.  They may be important for your research project, so do not forget to check them out.

Below is a list of the modules included in the guide and a brief description of each of them:

Module 1: What is Community Based Research? Defining the research problem/issue

Module 2: Designing the Research

Module 3: Privacy and Confidentiality in Research

Module 4: Gathering Information and Literature Reviews

Module 5: Research Tools

Module 6: Gathering Participants

Module 7: Analyzing Data Collected

Module 8: Reporting on Research Findings

Module 9: Making your Research Matter/Publications and Reports

Module 10: Evaluating the Research Process and Models of Impact

For those that may already be familiar with research, we recommend that you follow through the research guide step-by-step, while checking out the tips and links to ensure you haven’t missed anything.  This will help you strengthen your skills, and keep your project on track. If you are new to researching and this is your first project, each module will help you to make your research project a success.

Ideas of how to get people more involved in your project:

  • Invite policy makers, and service providers to be members of a research advisory team in your community, especially if they already live there. Their involvement in your research design, will give the project credibility in the eyes of their colleagues whom you wish to influence. It may also be someone who is willing to fight for actions and results as a community representative.  However, the idea must be revoked, if the community feels that this will mislead and shift away their voice.  Keeping the needs of the community in mind should always be the focus of your project
  • Get in touch with people in the community who are knowledgeable about the topic of your research and use them as consultants for developing your research design, and project.
  • Put up flyers at the grocery store or local community centre encouraging others to get on board with helping your research, and how they feel the needs of the community can be best met in the research design process.
  • When possible, have potential research participants be involved in the design of the project (if this is ethically feasible). The participants of a study are the “knowers” and “experts” of the community, and having their input on the research design will prevent them from being research “on” and enable them to be agents of change.

For more information about how including the community in the research is useful, and why this is important check out this link on Community-Based Research. It has some valuable information that should be incorporated as you mosey along.

How can I identify prospective partners for my research?

You will need to outline exactly what it is you are looking to do in your research project, in order to identify what type of collaboration is important for your project.  Next, you should research local agencies doing similar work that that may be interested on your research issue and develop a list.  Then, you can draft a letter to the prospective partners (put sample letter here), stating the purpose of your research and how you see their organization working alongside you.  By doing this, you can work to develop new partnerships and ensure you are not your replicating research that has already been done by them.

Where do I find out where the prospective partners are?

There are some community directories that compile information about organizations and their programs and services in the community that may be useful.  Among them are the Amazing Directory of the Parent’s Resource Centre (link) and the Community Directory of the Community Information Centre of Ottawa. You can also check out what is available in your area by doing an Internet search.  A quick visit to an organization’s website should let you know their interests and mandate.  If you feel that the local group or organization you are looking at will be interested in your project, take a note and decide on the best way to contact them (e.g. email, telephone, mail) to book a meeting and discuss a potential collaboration in your research. While visiting an organization’s website have a look around to see if it has any published reports, or other information on your topic.  Keep track of all this information on your research journal.

How will I know when I am ready to get started?Have a look at the check list below to see if you are ready to start your research
  • I have an issue or problem which I need to learn more about in order to solve it.
  • I know the area of interest I want to focus on, and am ready to get more information on the topic.
  • I have the time to undertake a project that might require me to do interviews, Internet searches, and background reading on my topics of interest.
  • I have written down in my research journal what my thoughts are on the topic of interest, the demographic, and what other agencies or community groups I could be in contact with to collaborate in my study.

If you answered yes to most or ideally all of the questions above, it’s time to move onto Module 1.  While getting started, keep in mind that research can increase the reputation of your organization, or group and help you direct attention to a particular issue or success in the community.

If you didn’t answer yes to the above points, you might need to take a step back and rethink about the purpose of undertaking your research project.

Ready to get started? Module 1 (link) will help you determine your project goals and objectives.  By the time you are ready to move onto Module 2 (link), you will have narrowed down your research interests, and developed the research question, and will be ready to pick out your research methods.



This module will also assist you in situating your research within the framework of community-based research, as well as learning more about your topic of interest, define your research objective and help you develop your research question.

Content of the module

  • The Basics
    • What is Community-Based Research?
    • The Value of Good Community Research
  • What if I Am Not Sure I Have to Do a Research Project?
  • What do You Want to Do?
  • Determining Project Objectives
  • What is My Topic of Interest?
  • Getting Information on Your Topic
  • Making a Research Plan
  • Developing a Research Question or Questions


What is Community-Based Research?

Community-based research (CBR) is about taking a hands-on approach to solving community problems through community solutions promoting change. This is a participatory process through which you become both a producer and consumer of knowledge by contributing to the research and using the findings to support your work in the community. Deciding to do community-based research will help you answer questions in the context of a community, for example a particular population, and issue of concern, or the challenges and success of a program or service.   You might want to know:

  • What are the gaps of services and programs not being addressed in my community?
  • Are the educational needs of Somali youth aged 12-17 being met in my area?
  • What services are available for elderly persons in my community?
  • What best practices on immigrants’ integration can be shared by small ethnocultural organizations?

The value of doing good community research

By engaging in community-based research communities can expand their capacity to identify their needs and act upon them, as well as to reflect on the assets they have to contribute to this process.  Engaging in community-based research is also an opportunity for community members to work collectively to strengthen their connections with each other and the community as a whole.  As a result, good research in the community contributes to raise awareness, inform policy makers and service providers and build collective action. To learn more about community-based research, from the communities’ standpoint, you can check out this video.


What do I want to do?

You may want to start by identifying how many people in the community are in need of a service, assessing a program or service in your community, or finding what is important for a particular group in your community.  Here are some examples to illustrate these possibilities.

[Embedded slideshow: see S:\NetServer\Hannah Jackson\Toolkit graphics and media\ Module 1]

Do I need to start my own research project?

If the idea of getting straight into an in depth research make you uncomfortable, or you are unsure if you should be doing an in-depth study on something which may or may not work, or be justifiable, then you may want to consider doing a pilot project.

A pilot project is a type of research that can provide you with a break down of information which could be used for further study, or involvement.  Doing a pilot project is a bit like “testing the water” to see if an area of interest could be used for a larger project, or to show there is significance in an area to be studied.  When doing a pilot project, you are checking to see if performing further research will be necessary, while gathering general information regarding a problem or issue along the way.  For more information on pilot testing, check out this link.

For some, what you are looking for may already have been researched.  If the research question that you have developed can be answered by research that already exists – either quantitative or qualitative (see Module 5 – link) you should consider using these existing findings.  They can save you time, as you do not have to conduct a research project with participants, and money. If, however, your research question cannot be answered by using existing literature, then you may have identified a “gap” in the research. This means that you have the opportunity to fill in a missing piece of the puzzle!

Defining the issue: What is my topic of interest?

To find out exactly what you are looking to address in your research and what population group are you focusing in, it will be necessary that you do some background or preliminary research on the issue at hand.  It is also recommended that you narrow down the demographic you want to work with based on: sex, age, income and so on.

Bringing your ideas into one place and discussing them (what we refer to as brainstorming) is a very effective strategy that is used to generate new ideas.   You can access a pre-writing strategy guide that will help you with brainstorming by clicking here.

After brainstorming you should have a better idea of what it is you are looking to do with your research.  Although you might not have your research question developed at this stage (which will be discussed more below) you will slowly be able to formulate one as you continue on.

Developing a research question will ensure that the research you do will be purposeful and help you answer important questions about the community.  Answering the questions below will help you formulate your research question while keeping your research goals in mind.

  • What is my issue or topic of interest?
  • Why am I doing this research?
  • Who will this research benefit?
  • What will I use this research for?
  • Are there other ways of reaching my goals, other than research?


Your background research is important.  Since libraries and the internet both contain millions of pages of information and facts, you might not find what you’re looking for unless you start with some kind of map. To avoid getting lost, map out a background research plan. It is useful to do this so that you know how to design and understand your study. It will give you a better idea of what research has already been done.

The most formal way of collecting background information is to conduct a literature review. This is a specific type of background synthesis. It consists of scanning the literature on a given topic to understand what is said about and issue and then communicate that in some way. In this manner, you will have a record which summarizes the literature, either by theme or by item.  If the literature has proven certain things that apply to your research situation, you do not have to re-prove them.

To make a background research plan or a “roadmap” of questions, follow these steps:

1. Brainstorm keywords and concepts related to your project

2. Use a table with the “question words” (why, how, who, what, when, and where) to generate research questions using your keywords.

3. Identify a list things you would like to address in your research

4. Research if there are research studies addressing a similar or the same issue of interest

5. Network with other people who know more about the issue you are dealing with. Ask them specific questions about your topic

Helpful Resources

For your own Research Question Worksheet, click here. You can print this off and put it in your research folder or journal to work on as you go.  As you use the worksheet, focus on what questions you are trying to answer and how they will ultimately help you meet your research objectives

Below is a graph that will help guide your thinking by asking the “Whys, Whats, Hows, Whens and Wheres” of research which will bring you one step closer to having a research question.

[Insert table from  S:\NetServer\Hannah Jackson\Toolkit graphics and media\Module 1]

After writing out what you think you want to address in your study, and having a rough idea of what your objectives may be, you will want to find out more about your topic.

How to find out more about my issue or topic?

Step 1 – Do a quick online search (e.g. Google search )

An online search will provide you with some background information on your topic, and help you see what other factors are involved in your topic or issue.  As you start to enter your information into Google or a similar search engine, you will come across a lot of information that may be difficult to sort through. As you do this, you may find that you have too much information and that it would be useful to narrow down your search.

If you type:  “violence + against + women” into the search engine, you will likely get a few hundred hits. Instead, you may want to search “violence + women  + services + Ottawa” to find more specific information.  To learn more about key searches, check out this video.

While doing online searches, you may find it difficult to decide what information is and is not reputable.  See Module 4 (link), which focuses on gathering information.

As you continue researching, don’t forget that your end goal for this module is to develop a research question.

Step 2-  Do a more detailed search

Once you feel you have gained a bit of information on the topic you are focusing on, you will want to find out  if more detailed information is already out there on your topic.   You can expand your search from the initial background focusing on the areas you feel are strategic for your research. This will help you to have a consistent review of similar studies that have been conducted in your area of interest and identify “gaps” in the research.

Step 3- Contact community organizations

As you continue to research, you may want to contact community organizations, and visit their websites.  As indicated before the objective is to find if the research you want to undertake already exists, to some degree or another.  The information you can find would provide you with the necessary background material and will be useful to you when writing your literature review (See Module 4 link).  Make sure to take notes on interesting information you find when doing your background research so you can refer to them later. You will want to continue with this process, and repeat the above steps until you have acquired enough information to be able to develop a research question.

Step 4 – Consult academic information and gray literature

Now that you are starting to narrow in on your topic, you will want to look more closely at academic information and gray literature (non-academic) that will be useful for your project.  You may access peer-reviewed journals, books at the universities’ and public libraries.  You can access published studies of non-profit organizations, research institutions and government bodies through the Internet.  For example, publications of the Social Planning Council, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Statistics Canada.  You can also check out the Parliamentary Library and any other organizations that may have reports available online (e.g. hospitals, newspapers).  Often there are databases of publications that can be accessed online such as the information found on this webpage.  Information on the Canadian government can be found by clicking here.

While reviewing more the materials available in your research, you should be slowly narrowing in on your topic of interest making sure it is not too broad, nor too narrow.   You also need to make sure the information you are reviewing and collecting is a reliable source of information.  While getting closer to narrowing in on your topic ask yourself;

  • Is there enough research available for me to expand upon?
  • Is the information I found relevant to my issue or topic?
  • Are the sources I found reputable? (see module 4 link)

While developing your action plan you need to ask yourself several questions to make sure you are on track.  Such as: Is my issue or topic specific enough?  Has a similar study been conducted?  If so, how am I planning to use these findings? How can we tell that what I am doing will have an impact? Do we have the information we need to make decisions and take action?

Once you find out more information out on your topic, it will be time to develop your research question, and then move onto Module 2. But before we do that, let’s have a look at the checklist below to see if you are ready to move forward with developing your research question 

  1. Have I brainstormed, and filled out the research question worksheet and formulated some sample questions to research like the examples in Table. 1.1 ?
  2. Have I identified all the keywords in my community research project to formulate a research question?
  1. Have I used the above diagram to help you generate a research question?
  1. Have I thrown out irrelevant questions?

If you answered is “yes” to the above questions, then you are ready to move forward. Now, it is time to develop a research question or questions.  This research question(s) will be the back bone of your research, and define the reason you are conducting research. 

Developing a research question(s) 

In order to make a good research question(s), it is important to understand what is the purpose of your research is and what it should entail.  For more information on how what a research question is, and how to make it work for your research, check out this informative and interactive tutorial on developing a research question.

Examples of 3 community research questions

To be developed

After you have formulated your research question(s), review it over and make sure it is specific and clear.  It is a good idea to ask people to read it over for you and tell you what they think it means.  You want to make sure it is understood and cannot be phrased more clearly.  Seeking feedback is always wise.

By the time you have completed this module you should have developed an objective for your research.  This may be a question you need to answer about your community, an assessment of a program, or need for one in your area.  It might have helped you to narrow down how many people in the community are in need of a service, or why it is important to them, but regardless of what you are looking to address, is that you have officially finished Module 1, and are now ready to move onto Module 2 (link).


  1. Introduction .
  2. Content of the module
  3. Different forms of community-based research (CBR)
  4. What is Participatory Action Research (PAR)?
  5. Why I will need to select a research design?
  6. What types of research designs can I choose from?
  7. What is a needs assessment?
  8. What is a program/service evaluation?
  9. What is asset mapping?
  10. What is photovoice and videography?
  11. What is the geographic information system mapping (GIS)
  12. What is a literature review?
  13. Table of pro and cons of research designs
  14. Thinking about the evaluation of your research process



  1. Introduction
  2. Content of the module
  3. What are research ethics and why are they important?
  4. What research projects need to consider ethics?
  5. How do ethics affect community research projects?
  6. How do I make sure that my research is ethical?
  7. Ethical principles strongly linked with community practice
  8. Social responsibility
  9. Honesty:
  10.  Objectivity
  11.  Integrity:
  12. Carefulness:
  13. Respect for intellectual property
  14. Respect for colleagues:
  15. Non-discrimination
  16. Guiding research ethical principles
    1. Privacy
    2. Confidentiality
    3. Anonymity
    4. Consent
    5. Accountability
  17. Other important ethical research principles
  18. Cultural sensitivity
  19. Professionalism
  20. Bias and ethics
  21. What information is “identifying”?
  22. Insider versus outsider 30


  1. Introduction
  2. Content of the module
  3. Tools to collect information
  4. Scanning various media sources
  5. Asset mapping
  6. Geographic information system mapping
  7. Photovoice
  8. Videography
  9. Literature review
  10. Check-yourself – be objective
  11. Search for reliable resources in all cases
  12. What to do with reliable sources information which you do not support or like?
  13. Evaluating sources on the internet
  14. Source evaluation is an art
  15. The CARS Checklist
  16. Credibility of qualitative work
  17. Examining graphs, charts, and tables
  18. Developing your background synthesis


  1. Introduction
  2. Content of the module
  3. Primary and secondary data
  4. Secondary qualitative data
  5. Where to look for secondary data
  6. Qualitative and quantitative research
  7. Pros and cons of quantitative and qualitative research
  8. Data Collection Tools
  9. Strengths and weaknesses of data collection tools


  1. Introduction
  2. Content of the Module
  3. How sample size affects the credibility of the research results
  4. Do I need a sample, or can I use the whole population?
  5. Types of samples:
  6. The convenient sample
  7. The judgment sample
  8. The random sample
  9. The purposeful sample
  10. Factors to consider in choosing a sample
  11. Choosing a sample size
  12. How to ensure validity of your primary research
  13. How can I recruit participants?
  14. A few tips for working with your sample


  1. Introduction
  2. Content of the module
  3. Prepare your data
  4. Listen to the story
  5. Working with qualitative and quantitative data
  6. How to clarify what you want to know from the data
  7. When should you analyze your data?
  8. What if my data tells me a story that I was not expecting?
  9. Why is my data telling me a story that I was not expecting?
  10. Listening the story and the sub-stories that the data is presenting
  11. Ways to analyze your quantitative data
  12. Useful tips
  13. Common mistakes – To be expanded
  14. Ways to analyze your qualitative data:
  15. Data Collection Tools
  16. Surveys
  17. Interviews
  18. Qualitative question in surveys
  19. Observations
  20. Verification before finalization 58


  1. Key elements to take into consideration
  2. Making sense of the meaning of the data analysis
  3. Most effective way to communicate the information of your project
  4. Importance of plain language in your research products
  5. Making recommendations
  6. How to incorporate the literature review into the research products
  7. Extra help for writing your report


  1. How you can prepare to make a deputation about the research, etc.
  2. Focusing on your research objectives and purpose
  3. Using the Internet: What works and what does not
  4. Alternative ways of communication
  5. Strategies to make your research products available to different language population groups
  6. How to prepare a media release and prepare media interviews
  7. What do you want to happen by getting the information out