If you’re new to program evaluation, maybe it’s better to start with what program evaluation is. According to the American Evaluation Association, evaluation “involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their effectiveness” (2020). In other words, it’s taking a closer look at what a program or organization is specifically doing and how they are doing it in order to measure and improve their levels of success.
Think about it like this: program evaluation is like putting on a pair of glasses. Before you put them on, you might know that you’re looking at a tree. You can give a guess to how tall it is and its general color and shape. But after putting on glasses, you can distinctly see just how many leaves it has, what shape they are, and other details that you might not have even realized were there. Likewise, program evaluation gives details and specifics to the contributing factors of a program or organization’s success.
There are a couple different types of evaluation and seemingly an infinite number of approaches and tools one can use in evaluation. To us, we believe evaluation is best accomplished when everyone—evaluators, program coordinators, community members, and other stakeholders—are working together. Not one single group knows everything there is to know; when we combine our knowledge and expertise, we are putting ourselves in the best position to succeed.
In that sense, we put collaboration at the core of our approach to evaluation. To do this, we encourage an environment of mutual trust with our clients through an ongoing exchange of information and frequent communication. We believe in adapting to client needs in order to develop an appropriate plan to promote impactful results. To us, evaluation is done best when knowledge and power are shared, and when people are empowered to create their own social change. What are some of your fundamentals when approaching evaluation?