GOVT Week: Flora Caruthers on Tips for Successful Evaluation with Diverse Groups

My name is Flora Caruthers, and I am the Staff Director for Technical Services and Staff Development for the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) OPPAGA conducts performance evaluations and policy reviews of Florida state agencies and programs to support the work of the Florida Legislature.

As noted earlier by Rakesh Mohan, Idaho State Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations, the work of legislative research and evaluation offices varies greatly in the scale of evaluations as well as topics. The work of OPPAGA focuses on a wide range of programs and issues across state government including such diverse topics as the effectiveness of harbor pilots, the effect of faith and character-based programs on prison initiatives and recidivism, and the success of state-approved preparation programs in producing teachers. Some of OPPAGA’s projects are conducted for the purpose of collecting information on a specific topic while the goal other projects is to develop policy options or recommendations for program improvement. A common thread for all of our projects is meeting the needs of the legislature and the development of a product that the legislature can use in making decisions concerning the allocation of resources and/or establishing law.

Hot Tip: Here are some tips for conducting a successful evaluation involving diverse groups of stakeholders:

  • Develop an understanding of the sponsor’s purpose for the evaluation.
  • Identify other key stakeholders with an interest in the evaluation.
  • Develop an understanding of the needs and values of key stakeholders and other interest groups.
  • Involve key stakeholders in determining the evaluation scope and design to help ensure that the evaluation meets its purposes.
  • Establish regular communication with stakeholders and other interest groups about the progress of the evaluation to help ensure that the evaluation purposes are being met and to reduce surprises at the end.
  • Amend the evaluation design, if necessary, based on fieldwork and key stakeholder feedback.

Related Resource: Donald B. Yarbrough, Lyn M. Shulha, Rodney K. Hopson and Flora A. Caruthers (2010) in The Program Evaluation Standards, 3rd Edition, offer guidelines and illustrations for designing and conducting high quality evaluations.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Government Evaluation Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GOVT TIG members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources list where we’ll be highlighting Government-focused evaluation resources. You can also learn more from the GOVT TIG via their many sessions at Evaluation 2010 this November in San Antonio.

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