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CEA Affiliate Week: Using process mapping to visualize program components by Cara Karter

I’m Cara Karter and I work as a research assistant at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. This summer I have been facilitating process mapping with a youth-serving organization looking to re-align their measurement strategy in preparation for a formal evaluation.

Process mapping is a visual way to represent a program’s components from the start to the end of a program. Along with each activity, you also outline the people responsible, key decision points, and steps where data or information collected. Once you have identified a program you want to map, bring together everyone involved in managing the program’s activities for a group mapping session. Using a visual aid – whiteboard, a frame paper, etc. walk through the steps of the program prompting for key decision points, the people involved, and any data collected.

After the process mapping session, clean up the visual, and convene the group to identify any process gaps – particularly any places where data is collected and not later used.

Hot Tips:

  • Spending time creating the process map can build a shared understanding both between an evaluator and a client and between different members of a program team.
  • In complex processes, it may help to start with a list of steps (or, if you are craving a visual – a step diagram!) before beginning to lay out the process map.
  • Process mapping can be a great foundation for building logic models or theories of change as they really help to clarify how inputs link to outputs.

Have you used process mapping in your evaluation practice? Share your own tips in the comments below!

Interested in trying it but have some questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from CEA members. 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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