by Pamela Leland
A truism in strategic planning is that you’ll never get there if you don’t know where you’re going.
The same principle applies to program evaluation … i.e., you’ll never be able to document your impact if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish.
As someone who is, by nature, both a planner and a change agent, I love evaluation. [Oh, I hear your reactions … which likely vary from “Yes!” to “Really?” to “Ugh.”]
For those who may be a bit more skeptical about the benefits of program evaluation, please give me the opportunity to persuade you. You, too, might come to appreciate the potential in evaluation … when done correctly, with intention.
Some of you might even come to love it.
First, evaluation invites us to be clear about why we do what we do. It forces us to ask a fundamental question … is this the way we want to spend our time and invest our resources? Why does this work matter?
Second, evaluation gives us the opportunity to confirm if our service model – the what – is the best way to achieve our goals. For example, is small group tutoring the best model to achieve an individual’s academic improvement? What if our goals included social and emotional goals in addition to academic goals? The process of evaluation helps us answer these kinds of questions.
Third, evaluation invites us to ask how we can improve the way we deliver our programs and services so that we increase our impact. There are many factors that go into program success, e.g., skills and abilities of staff, the program model, the quality of materials, the number of participants … even the physical environment. If we are not collecting information on all aspects of a program, how do we know what we need to do to improve the outcome(s)?
Finally … evaluation invites us to learn. Learn about the need(s) we are trying to meet. Learn about ourselves as organizations so that we can figure out how to better meet these needs. Learn about ourselves as individuals so that we can get the training and professional development we each need to better serve our clients and customers.
Ultimately evaluation is about learning what we need to know so that we can adapt and change to more effectively achieve our mission and our ultimate vision.
Program evaluation allows us to do this. [Have I persuaded you?]
Please join us as we start our 5-part evaluation series on February 10th in partnership with our colleagues at the Pennsylvania Health Management Corporation.