Hints for Conducting Strong Evaluations

Conducting Optimal Evaluations

The steps and standards of the framework help you conduct optimal evaluations by forcing you to think through these questions:

  • What is the best way to evaluate?
  • What are we learning from evaluation?
  • How will we use the learning to make our efforts more effective?

An optimal strategy is one that accomplishes each step in the framework in a way that accommodates the program context and meets or exceeds all relevant standards.

Assembling an Evaluation Team

An evaluation leader will coordinate the team and maintain continuity throughout the process, and the steps will guide the selection of additional team members. A diverse team of engaged stakeholders has a greater probability of conducting a culturally competent evaluation (i.e., one that understands and is sensitive to the program’s cultural context).

A strong evaluation team can include a mix of:

  • Those who are diplomatic and have diverse networks.
  • People persons who understand the program’s history, purpose and practical operation in the field.
  • People with group facilitation skills.
  • Decision makers and others who guide program direction.
  • Scientists, particularly social and behavioral scientists.
  • Trusted people who have no particular stake in the evaluation.
  • Advocates, creative thinkers and members of the power structure.
  • Partners and community members.

Addressing Common Concerns

By using this framework, common evaluation concerns such as cost and time constraints, are clarified because the standards require a discussion of the potential trade-offs in utility, feasibility, propriety, and accuracy.

  1. Cost: The expense of an evaluation is relative – the cost depends on the questions being asked and the level of certainty desired for the answers. A simple, low-cost evaluation can deliver valuable results.
  2. Time: The framework also encourages conducting evaluations that are timed strategically to provide necessary feedback, which makes integrating evaluation with program practice possible.
  3. Technical demands: The practical approach endorsed by this framework focuses on questions that will improve the program by using context-sensitive methods and analytic techniques that accurately summarize the meaning of qualitative and quantitative information.
  4. Punitive, exclusionary and adversarial: The framework encourages an evaluation approach that is designed to be helpful and engages all interested stakeholders in a process that welcomes their participation.
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