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Anticipated and unanticipated effects

A FRAMEWORK FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION

Program evaluation offers a way to understand and improve community health and development practice using methods that are useful, feasible, proper, and accurate. The framework described below is a practical non-prescriptive tool that summarizes in a logical order the important elements of program evaluation.

THE FRAMEWORK CONTAINS TWO RELATED DIMENSIONS:

  • Steps in evaluation practice, and
  • Standards for “good” evaluation.
Image depicting a Framework for Program Evaluation. A large circle with four rings. The outer ring is entitled “Steps in Evaluation.” The next ring lists the steps with arrows in between each, depicting an ongoing flow from one to the next: “Exchange Stakeholders; Describe the Program; Focus the Evaluation Design; Gather Credible Evidence; Justify Conclusions; Ensure Use and Share Lessons Learned.” The next inner ring is entitled “Standards for “Good” Evaluation.” Inside it is the innermost circle divided into four quadrants: “Utility; Feasibility; Propriety; Accuracy.”

The six connected steps of the framework are actions that should be a part of any evaluation. Although in practice the steps may be encountered out of order, it will usually make sense to follow them in the recommended sequence. That’s because earlier steps provide the foundation for subsequent progress. Thus, decisions about how to carry out a given step should not be finalized until prior steps have been thoroughly addressed.

However, these steps are meant to be adaptable, not rigid. Sensitivity to each program’s unique context (for example, the program’s history and organizational climate) is essential for sound evaluation. They are intended to serve as starting points around which community organizations can tailor an evaluation to best meet their needs.

  • Engage stakeholders
  • Describe the program
  • Focus the evaluation design
  • Gather credible evidence
  • Justify conclusions
  • Ensure use and share lessons learned

Understanding and adhering to these basic steps will improve most evaluation efforts.

The second part of the framework is a basic set of standards to assess the quality of evaluation activities. There are 30 specific standards, organized into the following four groups:

  • Utility
  • Feasibility
  • Propriety
  • Accuracy

These standards help answer the question, “Will this evaluation be a ‘good’ evaluation?” They are recommended as the initial criteria by which to judge the quality of the program evaluation efforts.