“Let’s Start at the Very Beginning, a Very Good Place to Start” Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music
In the previous blog we defined evaluation as having 3 components with the first being an in-depth look at a program based on focused evaluation questions. This second component answers those questions by collecting data using specific and carefully chosen methods such as surveys/questionnaires, checklists, document reviews, case studies or focus groups. The third component provides tools to manage the program, identify performance gaps, develop implementation plans and create stakeholder feedback reports.
While evaluation does contain specific steps, it is neither prescriptive nor linear. Rather, it is a cyclical, ongoing process that is focused on continuous quality improvement. The following are the steps we will share in forthcoming blogs to create and implement your own program evaluation.
1. Assess your readiness.
2. Start with the end in mind by identifying clear program outcomes.
3. Develop a data collection plan with methods that support your program’s needs.
4. Identify resources.
5. Determine program outcomes.
6. Review and analyze data.
7. Create a logic model.
8. Track and use outcome and evaluation results to inform strategic management.
9. Integrate results into strategic program planning.
So, let’s assess your readiness and perform a gap analysis to compare your program’s actual performance with its potential performance. A gap analysis asks, “Where are we now?” and “Where do we want to be?” Then consider your organization’s following systems to determine how they perform now. On readiness scale of 1-5 how ready are you to begin evaluation?
- The quality of your program planning and design
- The reliability of non-staff resources such as funding sources, equipment, buidings, etc.
- The commitment and longevity of your staff
- The extent to which the program aligns with best business practices
- The priority of staff training
- The extent to which continuous quality improvement is integral to program culture
- How well can staff articulate program purpose and activities
- How well can staff articulate the results or outcomes the program has on your clients
- The extent to which client-based data is collected
- The extent to which data is used to make decisions and manage the program
You have just begun the formal evaluation process – congratulations! Did you uncover any areas of need that must be addressed before your evaluation? What are they and how will you proceed?