Knowledge for Action Theories in Evaluation: Knowledge Utilization, Diffusion, Implementation, Transfer, and Translation
Understanding how knowledge moves through communities can help evaluators select the components of a program that are best suited for scaling up. “Scaling” is the practice of replicating programs for implementation at new locations, by other organizations, or to serve larger groups of people. Knowledge-for-action theories address how learned information becomes the measureable impact of arts for change work. This article highlights five theories of knowledge transfer: utilization, diffusion, implementation, transfer, and translation. These theories offer frameworks that help identify what can be scaled, how it can be scaled, and what needs to be considered when evaluating the scaling process. Knowledge-for-action theories focus on how knowledge moves between stakeholders and becomes outcomes that can be measured. Evaluators benefit from understanding the what, how, and context of how information moves through communities. By incorporating knowledge transfer theories into their work, evaluators can better isolate the mechanisms that are contributing to the movement of knowledge between people. This understanding can be used to identify best practices that should be scaled for greater use in the arts for change work. New Directions for Evaluationis a peer-reviewed journal of the American Evaluation Association dedicated to exploring current evaluation issues.