Section 4: From the Field - Using Evaluation Results to Answer the “So What?” Question
At Prevent Blindness Texas, Heather Patrick and Monica Guerrero manage a wide range of programs and services that are designed to prevent blindness and preserve sight among Texans. When managing such a large number of programs and services, it can be tempting to take the same approach for all of them.
Fortunately, Heather and Monica understand the value of evaluating programs to ensure that they are achieving their goals. They routinely conduct surveys before and after programs to assess their programs and make improvements as needed.
Heather and Monica also share their evaluation results with external stakeholders, partners, and funders. The data help answer questions from stakeholders about why Prevent Blindness Texas offers certain programs and how these programs are helping the target population. Heather and Monica refer to these questions as “so what?” questions, and they note that evaluation data are key to answering them.
Although Heather and Monica could not imagine operating Prevent Blindness Texas without evaluation data, they recognized early on that they had limited time and expertise to conduct evaluations. They hired an external evaluator with expertise in public health, which allowed them to focus on program and service delivery. The evaluator brought a fresh perspective, and even some new programming ideas.
Heather and Monica offered the following suggestions to other organizations that are ready to incorporate evaluation into their vision and eye health activities:
- Do not wait too long before thinking about the evaluation component of your intervention. Ideally, evaluation planning should be done at the beginning.
- Hire an external evaluator, if possible. Using an external evaluator can sometimes be more efficient and cost-effective than maintaining internal evaluation staff. It might also be more appropriate to work with an external evaluator who does not have a vested interest in the e valuation findings. Their findings might be perceived as more credible than those of an internal evaluator who is associated with the intervention being evaluated.
- Include your partners in the evaluation planning process. They can offer insights about how the evaluation can be developed to best meet the needs of all stakeholders.
About the Experts in the Field
Heather Patrick is President and Chief Executive Officer of Prevent Blindness Texas.
Monica Guerrero is Vice President of Programs and Community Outreach. Prevent Blindness Texas is a nonprofit organization with a mission to prevent blindness and preserve sight in the state.
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