Diane O. Dunet on Writing an Evaluation Purpose Statement
My name is Diane Dunet and I am a senior evaluator on the Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Our team members use a written purpose statement for our program evaluations.
In strategic planning, a mission statement serves as a touchstone that guides the choice of activities undertaken to achieve the goals of an organization. In evaluation, a purpose statement can serve as a similar touchstone to guide evaluation planning, design, implementation, and reporting.
Early in the evaluation process, evaluators on our team at CDC work with our evaluation sponsors (those requesting that an evaluation be conducted, for example a program manager) in order to understand and clarify the evaluation’s purpose. In many cases, the purpose of an evaluation is to improve a program. Other types of evaluation purposes include accountability, measuring effectiveness, assessing replicability of a program to other sites, determining what program components are essential, or making decisions about a program’s fate. We develop a written evaluation purpose statement and then refer to it during the entire evaluation process. An example purpose statement is:
The purpose of this evaluation is to provide an accountability report to the funder about the budgetary expenditures for client services delivered at 22 program sites. (Accountability.)
In the initial stages of evaluation, we are guided by the evaluation purpose when determining which program stakeholders should be involved in the evaluation in order to accomplish its purpose. We refer to the purpose statement to guide our evaluation design, seeking to match data collection methods and instruments appropriate to the evaluation purpose. We also use the evaluation purpose statement to guide us in tailoring our reports of evaluation results to align with the sponsor’s needs and the evaluation’s purpose.
Of course, evaluation findings can sometimes also be “re-purposed” to provide information in a way not originally intended, for example when program managers find ways to improve a program based on results of an evaluation for accountability.
Resource: The CDC Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health provides a six-step approach to conducting program evaluation and is available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr4811a1.htm
Resource: The CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention sponsors a public health version of “Evaluation Coffee Breaks” modeled after the AEA Coffee Breaks. Information and archived sessions are available at http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/programs/nhdsp_program/evaluation_guides/index.htm
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.