Annaliese Calhoun on Measuring Sustainability Capacity and Planning for Long Term Success

Hi, I’m Annaliese Calhoun, Project Manager at the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis. My team has been developing the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool, a new tool designed to help programs to rate their sustainability capacity. We define sustainability capacity as the ability to maintain programming and its benefits over time.

After testing reliability and refining the tool, the 40-item Program Sustainability Assessment Tool is now available in a free online format along with other great resources on sustainability planning.
Lessons Learned: Program sustainability capacity is about more than just funding. Through our research, we’ve identified eight key domains that influence a program’s ability to continue providing services and their benefits over time. One of these key components is program evaluation. The full list includes:

program sustainability framework

  • Political Support: Internal and external environments that support your program
  • Funding Stability: Establishing a consistent financial base for your program
  • Partnerships: Cultivating connections between your program and its stakeholders.
  • Organizational Capacity: Having the internal support and resources needed to effectively manage your program
  • Program Evaluation: Assessing your program to inform planning and document results
  • Program Adaptation: Taking actions that adapt your program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness.
  • Communications: Strategic communication with stakeholders and the public about your program.
  • Strategic Planning: Using processes that guide your program’s directions, goals, and strategies.
  • Building program sustainability capacity requires assessment and planning. The Program Sustainability Assessment Tool was designed to identify a program’s areas of sustainability strength and challenge. Program staff and stakeholders can then use results from this assessment to inform sustainability planning.

Rad Resource: I’m excited to announce the launch of this new website  featuring the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool and sustainability planning resources. You can use this site to:

  • Deepen your understanding of the factors affecting sustainability capacity.
  • Create a free account and assess your program’s sustainability capacity. When you’re finished, you’ll get a summary sustainability report.
  • Invite other people to assess the same program and have all the responses totaled in a group summary sustainability report.
  • Explore tools and resources for developing a program sustainability plan.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

7 thoughts on “Annaliese Calhoun on Measuring Sustainability Capacity and Planning for Long Term Success”

  1. Dear Annaliese…
    I was used your sustainability assessment tool in my research in was the best approach to local government how they should be focus on after donors end…thanks

  2. Pingback: Susan Kistler on the 2013 Summer Evaluation Training Institute · AEA365

  3. It’s interesting to see a framework that might be used to predict a program’s long-term success. I know that a model cannot include every factor but I’m wondering about leadership. Where does that fit in? It’s my experience that it takes someone who is highly committed to the program and willing to take the lead to make it sustainable.

    1. Annaliese Calhoun

      You raise a great point. The literature on sustainability frequently mentions the role that strong leaders can play in ensuring a program continues over time. Leadership is captured within the ‘Organizational Capacity’ domain. In our Program Sustainability Assessment Tool, two of the five questions for measuring this domain are about program leadership.

  4. Annaliese,

    Very interesting! While a lot of people talk about sustainability, this is the first validated tool to measure it that I have seen. I would love to know more about your validation process.


    1. Annaliese Calhoun

      Thanks for the question. Validation of the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool is an important goal for us and we’ve taken the first steps in this direction. We have tested the reliability of the tool and it has excellent internal consistency and domain structure. Also, we have examined the face validity of the tool through a literature review and our expert informed concept mapping process. We are now beginning the process of construct validation. This will take a few years because we want to track programs over time and see how their sustainability capacity scores relate to their sustainability outcomes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.