Hi, I’m Nancy Franz the Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach and Director of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to Families.
Organizational sustainability for many agencies, nonprofit organizations, and groups now relies on translating the value of what they do for a wider audience than in the past. Principles of public sector economics can help program evaluators determine and share the public value of programs. Public value has been defined by Laura Kalambokidis an economist at the University of Minnesota as the value of a program to those who do not directly benefit from the program. This contrasts with the private gain or personal value program participants directly gain from programs such as new knowledge gain or behavior change. Here are lessons I’ve found as a program evaluator helping others measure and articulate the public value of their programs.
-Be proactive with public value stories rather than waiting until decision-makers cut funding or programs.
-Start with early adopters, and nurture the midadopters. Don’t waste time on resistors.
-Build urgency with staff by using real stories about public lack of understanding or misunderstanding of their work (i.e., decision-makers who have cut funding or programs).
– Provide a wide variety of professional development opportunities for staff to enhance their public value thinking, skills, and story development.
– Secure public value champions in the organization at all levels to help catalyze change.
– Use many examples of public value of the organization’s work for staff deeply steeped in the private value of their effort as tangible incentives to change their thinking and practice.
– Don’t underestimate the ability of clientele to determine, measure, and share public value of programs.
– Encourage researchers to conduct research and share results connecting the private value of the organization’s work with public economic, environmental, and social condition changes.
– Create a strong statistical base for the relevance section of public value stories to make them more convincing and to make it easier to measure actual change due to the organization’s programs.
– Bridge field and administrative visions and actions around public value efforts through middle managers in the organization.
– Determine which programs should be supported solely by public funds and solely by private fund by determining the public value of each program.
– Develop organization-wide templates with staff to provide a tangible and safe environment for changing thinking about program value, and help staff improve program development, implementation, and evaluation to more fully address public value.
– Involve economists, program evaluators, communications staff, and stakeholders in developing public value stories to more deeply and authentically tell the story.
– Urge administrators to enhance or catalyze public value throughout the organization.
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