Evaluating the effectiveness of any project is a necessary part of the development phase and critical to demonstrating success. Simply put, one needs to be able to show clearly that the project achieved what it set out to accomplish.
Depending on the model employed to outline the proposed workplan, there should be a distinct pathway leading from the “goal/objective” through to the “outcome/deliverable” that indicates success at the conclusion of the project. The “action” items should easily and clearly relate to the goal and explain how the success was achieved. The best evalaluation is one that undeniably demonstrates how the outcome(s) are arrived at, and which goal was accomplished by the action(s) proposed in the plan. The pathway should be obvious whether looking at the workplan from goal-to-outcome, or the other way around from outcome-to-goal.
A few simple tips to design a good evaluation plan:
- Design your evaluation plan at the same time you develop the research/intervention proposal (don’t wait until the work has been done!)
- When designing your evaluation plan, start from the end and work forward. By this, I mean let your desired outcomes inform your action plan to achieve those outcomes, and relate your action plan to your objectives and ultimately your goals. That way you can be sure that your methodology reflects the action plan and will lead to your proposed outcomes, establishing the clear pathway you desire for your project conclusion reporting and knowledge translation portions of the project. It sounds simple, and it is amazing how often this is overlooked or unclear in evaluation reports.
- Keep it simple whenever possible. Three or four goals should easily net more than enough outcomes to evaluate and report back. The clear pathway demonstrating that you did what you said you would, and illustrating how you got there, will always be well received!
Here is a helpful guide reprinted from the Community Solutions website. The author-Kylie Hutchinson- has done lots of contract work for the ASO community in BC.
Twenty-eight Ideas for Building a “Culture of Evaluation” in Your Organization
At a recent evaluation workshop, I asked the participants to brainstorm ways they might work to build a culture of evaluation within their own organizations. Here are some of their insightful responses combined with a few of my own:
1. Emphasize evaluating the important outcomes only.
2. Position evaluation as a way of giving staff a voice.
3. Position evaluation as a way of showing that management is listening.
4. Involve staff in the process to increase engagement and ownership.
5. Decrease the use of jargon, talk instead in terms of “questions we want to answer” vs. “outcomes we have to measure”.
6. Incorporate evaluation into staff performance appraisals and personal development plans.
7. Resource it appropriately.
8. Offer evaluation training to build capacity.
9. Inject the term “learning organization” into your persuasion efforts.
10. Engage expertise in the area of organizational culture change.
11. Identify and recruit evaluation champions at the senior levels.
12. Model evaluation at every opportunity.
13. Consciously recruit and hire “evaluative minds”.
14. Bring in a high profile evaluation expert to work directly with your organization.
15. Demystify “measurement”. Instead use friendlier terms such as “tracking” or “following”.
16. Put more focus on qualitative data, acknowledging staff’s fears that not everything can be reduced to quantitative.
17. Emphasize more intrinsic staff motivations, e.g. objective validation of their work, evaluation is a transferable skill.
18. Emphasize that evaluation is something they can direct, not something that is “done” to them.
19. Be subversive and informally collect data on areas of concern to demonstrate what needs improvement and the value of evaluation.
20. Be proactive and develop an evaluation process before it is imposed on you by management.
21. Be clear about who the evaluation is for, i.e. you and not just the funder.
22. Make a practice of scheduling time up front in the program planning and design phase to discuss evaluation.
23. Incorporate evaluation into new staff orientation.
24. Appeal to management’s notions of accountability and informed governance/decision-making.
25. Emphasize the board’s role to request/direct more evaluation.
26. Orient project partners to your increased focus on evaluation.
27. Start with informal, simple evaluations to demonstrate benefit and worth, look for small successes.
28. Acknowledge the informal forms of evaluation that staff already does intuitively.
Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation
…helping you find the path forward
For more information on evaluation see Kylie’s website www.communitysolutions.ca