chapter  14
9 Pages

Evaluation

The mutual-aid approach to evaluation is consumer oriented. If the raison d’être of mutualaid practice is to help people help one another, then they have the right to evaluate the extent to which it is or is not happening. This does not preclude professional evaluation, but just as helping a group develop into a mutual-aid system is a joint venture, evaluating its success as such is also a joint venture. Further, mutual-aid practice is, theoretically speaking, inherently evidence based. That is, it occurs only if and when participants say it occurs, which one might say is the most primary or fundamental and logical form of evidence available. The practitioner (as observer, for example) cannot conclude that mutual aid has taken place if participants determine otherwise. Clearly, group members must be educated about the dynamics of mutual aid so that they recognize them when they see them in action and can judge whether they have either directly experienced mutual aid or observed it in the group. Only in extremely limited circumstances might it be appropriate for the worker to carry out evaluation on his or her own, particularly since communication is at the heart of mutual aid, making it likely that participants can communicate in some way or other some degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with group process.