In the first or formative phase, researchers and the community engage in activities that lay the groundwork for a successful partnership (Valente, 2002). Such activities include defining and agreeing on the mission, goals, and outcomes of the research; identifying strengths and assets within the community and the research institution; determining responsibilities; and establishing the decision-making process. Although some relations may already exist among potential partners, further developmental activities must be undertaken for each new project. For example, an existing network or coalition on tobacco prevention may be expanded to include nutrition activities. This network would then have to conduct a formal needs assessment that involves both the researchers and the community to identify health needs and set goals and objectives. The formative phase, whether it entails expanding an existing partnership or developing new relations among researchers and the community, is time-consuming and cannot be carried out without sufficient funds to support the activities described.
During the process phase, potential intervention strategies and research instruments are designed and pilot tested among small community samples (Valente, 2002). Agreement must be reached on the health promotion strategies, specific media and messages, and research instruments after repeated iterations. Once agreement is reached, baseline data are collected and the intervention is implemented. Depending on the nature of the intervention, this phase could be short (e.g., 3 months) or quite long (years).
The summative phase of research begins after the intervention is completed or at a point when some assessment is needed (Valente, 2002). The summative phase includes collection of follow-up data and interviews with key stakeholders (such as project administrators or program recipients). This phase includes data analysis to determine the impact, specify the lessons learned, and develop recommendations for future activities (e.g., whether to expand the program and whether or how to modify the program). The summative phase is iterative because results need to be shared with key stakeholders. If the program is expanded and disseminated to other communities or settings, effectiveness evaluation is needed to determine whether the program can be generalized to these other settings and what lessons are learned as the program is implemented elsewhere.