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A model for collaborative evaluation of university-community partnerships
  1. Sarah Bowen1,
  2. Patricia J Martens2
  1. 1Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba; Division of Research and Applied Learning, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Winnipeg, Canada
  2. 2Director, Manitoba Centre for Health Policy; Principal Investigator, CIHR’s The Need To Know Project; Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S J Bowen
 Division of Research and Applied Learning, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, 1800–155 Carleton Street, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3C 4Y1; sbowen{at}


Introduction: Manitoba’s The Need to Know project was presented with a unique opportunity to develop a collaborative approach to evaluation, and to explore the effectiveness of a variety of evaluation methods for assessment of university-community collaborative health research partnerships.

Objectives: The evaluation was designed to incorporate participation of community partners in planning, developing, and evaluating all aspects of the project. Objectives included: (a) assessment of extent to which the project met its initial objectives; (b) assessment of extent participants needs and expectations were met; (c) refinement of evaluation questions; (d) identification of unanticipated impacts; (e) assessment of participant confidence as research team members; (f) development of knowledge translation theory; and (g) component analysis.

Methods: A “utilisation focused” approach was used. Primary stakeholders identified evaluation questions of concern, and how findings would be used. The multimethod time series design incorporated key informant interviews, a pre/post-test survey, written workshop evaluations, and participant and unobtrusive observation. All aspects of the evaluation were made transparent to participants, and formal feedback processes were instituted.

Results: There was a high level of participation in evaluation activities. Identifying evaluation questions of concern to community partners helped shape project development. While all methods provided useful information, only key informant interviews, participant observation and feedback processes provided insights into all evaluation objectives.

Conclusion: Collaborative evaluation can make an important contribution to development of university-community partnerships. Qualitative methods (particularly key informant interviews, participant observation, and feedback processes) provided the richest source of data, and made an important contribution to team development

  • evaluation
  • knowledge translation
  • collaborative research
  • university-community partnerships
  • qualitative methods

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  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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