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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Do this one thing for better program evaluations

Julie Whelan Capell |

Last week a client asked “what one thing can we do to improve our program evaluations?”

That’s an excellent question, and the answer isn’t complicated. You don’t need to create a huge outcomes matrix or buy statistical software. Based on years of advising clients on outcomes and evaluations, I can tell you the answer revolves around people.

Participation is the Key

The best thing you can do to improve your program evaluations is get the perspectives of program participants and other stakeholders throughout the evaluation process.

Involve participants in discussions about what to evaluate, the selection of data collection methods, pre-testing those methods, and analyzing the results prior to completing the final report.

Ask the following questions to see if your organization is ready for a participatory evaluation:

1. How might getting the perspective of participants improve the quality of our findings/recommendations?
2. What would be the benefits of involving other stakeholders–funders, board members–in our program evaluation?
3. Have we built in enough time and resources to effectively involve participants in the evaluation?

Culturally Appropriate Evaluation

Involving participants is particularly important if your organization serves a population that is culturally different from your staff or board composition. Never assume you can gauge the cultural appropriateness of your basic evaluation premise until you get the perspective of the people you serve.

Check out our article No Evaluations without Participation for more on how to bring program participants’ perspectives into the evaluation process.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in using this approach to evaluations? MWA team member Julie has expertise in evaluation. Let us know how we can help you!

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