My name is Laura Cody, and I am a Community Health Specialist at the Regional Center for Healthy Communities in Cambridge, MA. We work with many substance abuse prevention coalitions helping them build on their strengths and reduce underage drinking in their communities. I will describe a process we used with a group of youth to develop an evaluation plan for their activities.
We started by asking the youth what comes to mind when they heard the word “evaluation”. We then talked about the different types of evaluation (from needs assessment to outcome evaluation) and how it can be helpful in their work. We discussed the need to plan for evaluation before the project starts to target the needed information.
Hot Tip: To guide this thinking, we developed three easy questions to ask about each project:
- What would make this project successful?
- How could we measure this success?
- When will we collect this information?
Rad Resource: And we created a simple chart to enter this information:
Finally, we talked about a way to use all the information collected. The group decided on a simple plus/delta chart, where the plus side listed things that went well with the project (including the evaluation process itself) and the delta side listed what could we change to do even better next time.
Hot Tips: A couple of lessons we learned as a result of this planning process:
- There was a perception among the youth that evaluation is something that is done to you and tells you what’s wrong (e.g., like psychological evaluation). It was important to recognize this and shift this thinking so they realize evaluation can be something you do for yourself as a source of empowerment.
- Often there are too many successes (outcomes) identified and we needed a way to prioritize the list so that it is feasible to implement.
- There was some discomfort with actually implementing the plan. For example, the youth needed more coaching on conducting interviews and observations.
- Also, it would have been helpful to designate an evaluation “asker” in the group. The asker is someone who doesn’t necessarily have to do all of the evaluation but will ask at the beginning of every project: How are we going to evaluate this? He/she also reminds the group to review the results at the end.
- While this process was designed for youth, we found it helpful working with groups of adults, too.
Rad Resource: You can see more details and examples of our process on our website called “Evaluation Planning Process”.