Advancing Equity and Justice in Programme Implementation Through Decolonial Evaluation Approaches


By Matthew Snelling
22 February, 2024

In the quest for social equity and justice, the way we evaluate and implement programmes carries profound implications for addressing systemic discrimination and ensuring that services reach the most marginalised populations. This article will explore the decolonial evaluation approach, and the role of service utilisation diagrams as a pivotal tool in this transformative process. By shifting our focus towards a method that prioritises the needs and voices of the most vulnerable, we set the stage for a more inclusive and equitable service delivery landscape.

Understanding the Problem: Systemic Discrimination in Service Delivery

The imperative to adopt decolonial and justice-based approaches stems from a critical and longstanding issue: systemic discrimination and bias in programme implementation and service delivery. Despite well-intentioned efforts, many programmes inadvertently perpetuate inequalities by failing to reach or adequately serve the most vulnerable populations. This exclusion is caused by myriad factors, including but not limited to socio-economic disparities, racial and ethnic biases, geographical barriers and more.

Moving Toward Decolonial and Justice-Based Approaches

The adoption of decolonial and justice-based approaches in programme evaluation marks a critical step forward in dismantling systemic barriers to service access. These approaches demand a radical rethinking of traditional evaluation metrics, centring the experiences and outcomes of marginalised groups to highlight and address disparities in service utilisation. Service utilisation diagrams act as vital instruments in this endeavour, offering a visual narrative of who benefits from services and who remains underserved or excluded.

By leveraging these diagrams to identify gaps in service provision, we can illuminate the pathways through which systemic biases perpetuate. This can guide the redesign of programmes to be more inclusive and responsive. This decolonised evaluation framework not only reveals the inequities embedded within service delivery models that are otherwise hard to identify, but also supports the implementation of solutions that are rooted in justice and equity.

The Role of Service Utilization Diagrams in Monitoring Implementation

Service utilization diagrams offer a lens through which we can critically examine and monitor programme implementation. By depicting how different segments of the population access and engage with services, these diagrams provide actionable insights into the effectiveness of current strategies as well as highlight areas requiring intervention. The ability to visualize service access and utilization patterns enables programme managers to make data-informed decisions that enhance the reach and impact of their services.

Identifying Gaps and Challenges Through Detailed Population Targeting

Service Utilisation Diagram Template

Critical to implementing a decolonial approach is the detailed targeting and description of populations. Understanding the demographics and socio-economic conditions of those we serve allows for the identification of their barriers to service access and utilization. Service utilization diagrams, enriched by detailed population data, unveil the nuanced ways programmes may exclude or fail to fully serve certain groups, laying the groundwork for targeted, inclusive interventions.

Download a PDF version of this template Here.

Addressing Social Exclusion with Informed Programme Design

Whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it, all systems inherently exhibit biases. Service utilisation diagrams equip us to confront and address these biases head-on. By highlighting the individuals and groups most at risk of social exclusion, these tools prompt a re-evaluation of programme design and delivery mechanisms. The shift towards participatory design and adaptive service models reflects a commitment to dismantling the barriers that perpetuate exclusion, driving forward a more just and equitable approach to service provision.

Hypothetical Example of a Service Utilisation Diagram in Action

Imagine a service utilisation diagram for a community health programme designed to provide vaccinations. The diagram reveals that while initial engagement with the programme is high across all demographics, there is a significant drop-off in participation among rural, low-income families at the stage of receiving the second dose. This drop-off could be attributed to several factors, such as transportation difficulties, lack of awareness about the importance of the second dose, or mistrust in healthcare services. In this hypothetical example, the diagram not only highlights the issue of service exclusion but also prompts an investigation into the underlying causes. By understanding these barriers, the programme can introduce targeted interventions, such as mobile vaccination units, community education campaigns, or partnerships with trusted local organisations, to ensure that vulnerable populations are not left behind in the vaccination process.

Example: Service Utilisation Diagram of Community Health Programme

The Importance of Organisational Honesty and Learning from Data

For service utilisation diagrams to truly inform equitable program improvement, organisations must adopt a stance of honesty and openness to learning from the data. This means acknowledging uncomfortable truths that may emerge about systemic biases or shortcomings in service delivery. It’s essential for organisations to view these revelations not as failures but as opportunities for growth and improvement. Embracing the data’s lessons requires a commitment to continuous reflection and adaptation, fostering a culture where feedback is valued, and changes are implemented in pursuit of more inclusive and effective services. By being honest with themselves, organisations can move beyond superficial solutions, addressing the root causes of disparities and making meaningful strides towards equity and justice in service provision.


The journey towards equitable and just program implementation is both necessary and complex. Service utilisation diagrams, employed within a decolonial and justice-based evaluation framework, represent a powerful step towards understanding and addressing the systemic disparities that hinder service access for marginalised populations. As we continue to refine these tools and approaches, our collective efforts will contribute to the creation of a service delivery system that truly serves all members of society, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or geographical location.