The JOY of learning: lessons from community development practice from the evaluations of a women's only project:
This case study presents the findings from the evaluation of the ‘JOY Project’, which is a current woman only community project which aims is to empower women by enabling them take more control over their lives and develop a sense of self-efficacy, self-esteem and self-confidence. This is done by providing support to enable women to gain a variety of skills, enhance their confidence and empower them to make their own informed decisions. In terms of models, the JOY Project represents Keith Popple’s (2000) community development model, wherein women accessing the service take an active role in both delivering and sustaining the support service for women.
The focus of the evaluation was the explicit outcomes from the JOY Project, as specified in the Project’s aims. The evaluation used a number of methods to do this, including questionnaires, individual interviews with service users, individual interviews with staff, focus groups, case studies and input from other organisations that work with the JOY Project.
The evaluation provided evidence that the JOY Project is enabling the vast majority of service users to express increased levels of positive change in a wide range of areas including social, educational, volunteering, community participation and employment. The evaluation also highlighted that a significant feature of these successful outcomes is that the fact that activities are service user led, as a consequence of it being representative of the service users and being advocates for the women in the wider community.
These findings from the evaluation of the JOY project propose two overarching themes for the success of community development projects. These relate to how community development projects are initiated, and how the desired outcomes from community development projects can be achieved, and these are discussed in some detail.
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