Hi! I’m Tabitha Cox, BA, a public policy grad student at Arizona State University. I recently finished a program evaluation course, and I’m suddenly very interested in what evaluation has to offer. For me, the central take-away of program evaluation is that evaluation is not an outsider coming in, taking information into the back room, and coming back out with a report. Turns out, that’s the exact opposite of what program evaluators want to do all day! Instead, program evaluation is garnering the trust and involvement of all the players in the game (stakeholders) from the beginning and throughout the data collection and analysis process. It’s taking the opportunity to not just capture a screenshot of the program in action, but to take it a few steps further and provide a roadmap for the work ahead.
While I don’t have any field experience as an evaluator yet, I do have some previous exposure to evaluation. Those experiences have come as a public-school teacher. My direct interactions with program evaluations were extremely limited, as was my understanding. While I understood the importance of evaluation and its necessity in programs, I always saw it as a sort of “other”. A reaction. A thing done at the end of the program to see how well it did.
After learning more about evaluation though, my perspective has shifted dramatically. I see now that good program evaluation is a much more proactive, collaborative experience. Instead of treating evaluation like the last task on a list of things to do, flip it around to be an on-going source of information that you reference consistently. It’s a tough habit to break, even for someone so willing to change focus like myself. Below, I shared my own strategy, which is a culmination of my experiences and recent studies.
Presentation is a key component to building and maintaining rapport and trust with stakeholders. I would encourage you (and my future self) to incorporate Stephanie Evergreen’s strategy of 1-3-25 in reporting. The concept is to present the evaluation information in a 1 page easy-read form for the stakeholders that benefit from that, as well as a 3 page medium-read form for other stakeholders, and finally a 25 page long-read form for the few stakeholders who need all the nitty gritty details. But, remembering what I said earlier, presentation should not be limited to the final completed write-up. It’s possible to keep a 1-3 reporting format going throughout the evaluation process as stakeholders stay involved and provide feedback throughout. There is so much power and meaning given to stakeholders as they can see the process grow and adapt to completion with their efforts.
This is a link to Dr. Stephanie Evergreen’s article on 1-3-25 reporting, with connections to templates and additional resources.The 1-3-25 Reporting Model
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