The Evaluation of Equity-Focused Community Coalitions: A Review of the Empirical Literature

Main Article Content

Jill Chouinard
Tiffany L. S. Tovey
Kristin Kidd


Conducting evaluation and research with community coalitions involved in health equity initiatives is inherently complex. In this paper we provide a review and synthesis of the empirical literature on the evaluation of equity-focused community coalitions. We explore issues, challenges, and barriers experienced by evaluators, as well as techniques and approaches that were considered beneficial. Our review identified 11 peer reviewed articles, from which we identified seven overlapping themes: (1) framing equity in the evaluation process, (2) use of multiple theoretical frameworks, (3) use of systems-focused approaches, (4) strategic use of intersectoral partnerships and collaborations, (5) intentional communication and building trusting relationships, (6) challenges dedicating purposeful time to the work, and (7) issues of cultural and contextual clarity and responsiveness. Our findings point to a significant focus on context, history, learning, communication, relationships, and power. The cultural complexity and historical scope of each context, diversity of stakeholders, and enormity of the systemic issues involved, shape and challenge the evaluation and research process in fundamental ways, requiring a creative and kinetic thinking -- a shifting from methodological certainty to an acknowledged uncertainty, where mixing, blending and the innovative use of approaches and theories becomes a way of moving beyond the colonizing past.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Chouinard, J., Tovey, T. L. S., & Kidd, K. (2023). The Evaluation of Equity-Focused Community Coalitions: A Review of the Empirical Literature. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 19(45), 50–66.


Backer, T.E. (2003). Evaluating community coalitions. NY, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Braveman, P. (2006). Health disparities and health equity: Concepts and measures. Annual Review of Public Health, 27(167), 194.

Braveman, P. (2014). What is health equity: And how does a life-course approach take us further toward it? Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18(2), 366–372.

Braveman, P., & Gruskin, S. (2003). Defining equity in health. Journal of Epidemiology in Community Health, 57, 254–258.

Brown, K. K., Wolfe, S. M., & Price, A. W. (2020). New directions for the evaluation of coalitions and collaboratives. New Directions for Evaluation, 165, 181–185.

Brown, L. D., Wells, R., Jones, E. C., & Chilenski, S. M. (2017). Effects of sectoral diversity on community coalition processes and outcomes. Prevention Science, 18(5), 600–609.

Bryan, V., Brye, W., Hudson, K., Dubose, K., Hansberry, S., & Arrieta, M. (2014) Investigating health disparities through community-based participatory research: Lessons learned from a process evaluation, Social Work in Public Health, 29(4), 318–334.

Butterfoss, F. D. (2006). Process evaluation for community participation. Annual Review of Public Health, 27, 323–340.

Butterfoss, F. D., & Francisco, V. T. (2004). Evaluating community partnerships and coalitions with practitioners in mind. Health Promotion Practice, 5(2), 108–114.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2007). Racial and ethnic approaches to community health (REACH) U.S.: Finding solutions to health disparities. CDC.

Cacari-Stone, L., Wallerstein, N., Garcia, A. P., & Minkler, M. (2014). The promise of community-based participatory research for health equity: A conceptual model for bridging evidence with policy. American Journal of Public Health, 104, 1615–1623.

Christens, B.D., Butterfoss, F.D., Minkler, M., Wolff, T., Francisco, V.T., & Kegler, M.C. (2019). Learning from coalitions’ efforts to promote equity and justice. Health Education & Behavior, 46(1S), 110S-114S.

Dean-Coffey, J. (2018). What’s race got to do with it? Equity and philanthropic evaluation practice. American Journal of Evaluation, 39(4), 527–542.

Domlyn, A. M., & Coleman, S. (2019). Prioritizing equity: Exploring conditions impacting community coalition efforts. Health Equity, 3(1), 417–422.

Equitable Evaluation Project. (2017). The project: Project overview. Retrieved from

Fawcett, S., Schultz, J., Watson-Thompson, J., Fox, M., & Bremby, R. (2010). Building multisectoral partnerships for population health and health equity. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(6), 1–7.

Gergen, K. J. (2015). From mirroring to world‐making: Research as future forming. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 45(3), 287–310.

Goodman, R. M., Wandersman, A., Chinman, M., Imm, P., & Morrisey, E. (1996). An ecological assessment of community based interventions for prevention and health promotion: Approaches to measuring community coalitions. American Journal of Community Psychology, 24(1), 33–61.

Granner, M. C., & Sharpe, P. A. (2004). Evaluating community coalition characteristics and functions: A summary of measurement tools. Health Education Research, 19(5), 514–532.

Greene, M. (1994). Epistemology and educational research: The influence of recent approaches to knowledge (Chapter 10). Review of Research in Evaluation, 20, 423–464.

Haluza-DeLay, R. (2003). When the topic is racism: Research and advocacy with a community coalition. Social Justice, 30(4), 77–90.

Hilgendorf, A. E., Moore, T. R., Wells, A., & Stanley, J. (2020). Positioning health equity within a systems thinking framework to evaluate coalitions and collaborative initiatives. New Directions for Evaluation, 165, 91–102.

Hopson R. K. (2003). Overview of multicultural and culturally competent program evaluation: Issues, challenges and opportunities. Social Policy Research Associates, The California Endowment.

Horvat, L., Horey, D., Romios, P., & Kis-Rigo, J. (2014). Cultural competence education for health professionals. The Cochrane Library, 5.

House, E. R., & Howe, D. (2000). Deliberative democratic evaluation. New Directions for Evaluation, 85, 3–12.

Horowitz, C., & Lawlor, E. F. (2008). In Institute of Medicine (Ed.) Challenges and successes in reducing health disparities: Workshop summary. Jennifer A. Cohen, Rapporteur. The National Academies Press.

Kreuter, M. W., Lezin, N. A., & Young, L. A. (2000). Evaluating community-based collaborative mechanisms: Implications for practitioners. Health Promotion Practice, 1(1), 49–63.

Lo, C. C., & Cheng, T. C. (2011). Racial/ethnic differences in access to substance abuse treatment. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 22, 621–637.

Maskill, C., & Hodges, I. (2001). Intersectoral initiatives for improving the health of local communities: A literature review. Ministry of Health.

McAfee, M., Blackwell, A.G., & Bell, J. (2015). Equity: The goal of collective impact. Policy Link: Oakland, CA.

Minkler, M., Rebanal, R. D., Pearce, R., & Acosta, M. (2019). Growing equity and health equity in perilous times: Lessons from community organizers. Health Education & Behavior, 46 (1S), 9S–18S.

McGuire, T. G., & Miranda, J. (2008). New evidence regarding racial and ethnic disparities in mental health: Policy implications. Health Affairs, 27, 393–403.

Price-Haygood, E. G., Burton J., Fort, D., & Seoane, L. (2020). Hospitalization and mortality among Black patients and white patients with Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(26), 2534–2543.

Reid, A., Abraczinskas, M., Scott, V., Stanzler, M., Parry, G., Scaccia, J., Wandersman, A., & Ramaswamy, R. (2019). Using collaborative coalition processes to advance community health, well-being, and equity: A multiple-case study analysis from a national community transformation initiative. Health Education & Behavior, 46(1S), 100S-109S.

Scarcini, I.C., Moore, A., Benjamin, R., Vickers, S., Chikany, J. & Fouad, M. (2017). A participatory evaluation framework in the establishment and implementation of transdisciplinary collaboration centers for health disparities research. Evaluation & Program Planning, 60, 37-45.

Schwandt T. A. (2002) Traversing the terrain of role, identity and self. In K. E. Ryan K.E. & T. A. Schwandt (Eds.), Exploring evaluator role and identity (pp. 193–207). Information Age Publishing.

Sen, A. (2002). Why health equity? Health Economics, 11(659), 666.

Sirdenis, T. K., Harper, G. W., Carrillo, M. D., Jadwin-Caknak, L., Loveluck, J., Pingel, E. S., Benton, A., Peterson, A., Pollard, R., & Bauermeister, J. A. (2019). Toward sexual health equity for gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: An intergenerational, collaborative, multisector partnerships approach to structural change. Health Education & Behavior, 46(1S), 88S–99S.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]. (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]. (2015). Behavioral health barometer, United States, 2015 (HHS Publication No. SMA-16-Baro-2015).

Whitehead, M. (1991). The concepts and principles of equity and health. Health Promotion International, 6(3), 217–228

Whitehead, M. (1992). The concepts and principles of equity and health. International Journal of Health Services. 22(3), 429-445.

Williams, J., & Marxer, S. (2014, September 4). Bringing an equity lens to collective impact. Collective Impact Forum.

Wolfe, S. M., Long, P. D., & Brown, K. K. (2020). Using a principles-focused evaluation

approach to evaluate coalitions and collaboratives working toward equity and social justice. New Directions for Evaluation, 165, 45–65.

Wolff, T., Minkler, M., Wolfe, S. M., Berkowitz, B., Bowen, L., Butterfoss, F. D., & Lee, K. S. (2016, Winter). Collaborating for equity and justice: Moving beyond collective impact. Nonprofit Quarterly, 42–53.