PD Presenters Week: Apollo M Nkwake on Working with assumptions in program evaluation

I’m Apollo M Nkwake, a Research Associate Professor at Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience and Leadership Academy. I design monitoring and evaluation plans, conduct program evaluations and facilitate a graduate course in quantitative analysis of disaster resilience.

Lessons learned: An elaborate design that explicates assumptions on which programs are premised, is essential for viable program evaluation. In designing programs, stakeholders need to clearly articulate how the interventions they implement are supposed to eventually bring about the desired changes. Lack of clarity on how the change processes are expected to unfold masks critical risks to program success and eludes measurement of success.

Hot tip: An elaborate program theory needs to elaborate at least four kinds of assumptions:

  • Diagnostic Assumptions: stated as stakeholders’ expectations or beliefs of the major and minor causes of core problems.
  • Prescriptive assumptions: relate to the intervention or strategy devised for the problem or to reach a stated objective, which represents stakeholders’ beliefs of what could be the best ways to address the problem or need.
  • Transformational assumptions: While prescriptive assumptions are related to strategies (and alternatives) devised to address a problem, transformational assumptions relate to how the immediate results of a strategy program or intervention (outputs) are expected to lead to long term desired changes.
  • External assumptions: preconditions for program success that are beyond the control of program stakeholders.

Hot tip: Monitoring and evaluating program assumptions alongside program outputs, outcomes and research questions helps to increase understanding of a program’s success

Rad resource: Working with Assumptions in International Development Program Evaluation

Want to learn more from Apollo? Register for: Working with assumptions – key concepts and tools for program design, monitoring, and evaluation at Evaluation 2013 in Washington, DC!

This week, we’re featuring posts by people who will be presenting Professional Development workshops at Evaluation 2013 in Washington, DC. Click here for a complete listing of Professional Development workshops offered at Evaluation 2013. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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