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Lee Kokinakis on the House that Evaluation Built

My name is Lee Kokinakis and I work for the Michigan Nutrition Network (MNN) at the Michigan Fitness Foundation (MFF). I provide curriculum and evaluation assistance to projects and work with the MNN team to help local and state partners accomplish Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) outcomes under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program. USDA and MNN recognize the importance of evaluation.

Hot Tip: At MNN we use the image and components of a house to explain the value of evaluation to partners who find it mysterious and challenging. This goal is much harder when evaluation is not valued. To learn about the house that evaluation built, read on!

Foundation. The foundation of a house is important. Everything rests on the foundation. The project evaluation design is like the foundation. While we can’t see the foundation once the house is built, it is one of the first things to occur during construction. Remembering to return to the evaluation foundation helps keep a project focused on desired outcomes.

Frame. The frame of a house is attached to the foundation and works with it to provide the structure. Objectives provide the framework for projects. Just as walls hang on the frame of a house, project activities and interventions hang on the objectives.

Rooms. Rooms are created by walls and usually they have specific functions. While rooms vary in function, color, etc., — the walls that define them meet basic requirements: they are strong, stable, and can bear the load. Project interventions and activities are like rooms. There are many types of activities, serving different functions. The common and essential ingredient is that interventions be effective and provide strong support to achieve desired outcomes.

Doors. Where doors are placed in a house affects how rooms are connected and how the inside of the house connects to the outside world. Project activities should be connected, too, so that interventions reinforce and strengthen achievement of objectives and activities acknowledge that context and setting – the outside world – have an impact on outcomes.

Windows. Windows are to look through. We see what is beyond our immediate reach. The windows of a project are times of reflection, moments to pause and consider if the project is moving forward as planned or if adjustments are needed.

The Roof. The roof of the house protects those inside from weather extremes. Evaluation data and reports are like the roof; they cover a project with evidence of success or strategies for improvement.

In closing, the house that evaluation built is a way to explain the value of evaluation to stakeholders and to enlist their support.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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1 comment

  • PATRICIA ZEROUNIAN · July 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

    This is a great analogy Lee – I believe most audience members could relate to the elements and functions of a house, and that relatedness could help them associate the elements of evaluation. This analogy cries out for a powerpoint presentation!


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