MVE TIG Week: Evaluation Capacity Building in Military Health Evaluation and Beyond by Lara Hilton

My name is Lara Hilton. I am a behavioral scientist conducting program evaluation in military health settings. In today’s post, I’ll share how I build evaluation capacity for clients in my military health practice so they might conduct continuous program improvement once we complete the formal evaluation. This information translates outside military context and will be of interest to evaluators who would like to add this approach to their toolkits.

Evaluation capacity building (ECB) is essentially the design and implementation of strategies focused on increasing knowledge, skills, and beliefs to help individuals and organizations cultivate sustainable evaluation practices within their organizations. I like to add an ECB specific aim on projects whenever resources allow it. Even when I can’t explicitly include ECB in the evaluation design, I typically add one or more activities related to evaluation capacity building as an added-value to the evaluation contracts I undertake, simply because I enjoy it!

Hot Tips: Suggestions for Success

  • Use a needs assessment. To get started, a brief needs assessment helps gauge the kinds of evaluation elements clients require after you are done with the formal evaluation. Make these client needs the central focus of your ECB, keeping in mind the limits of the resources they might have for sustaining these efforts.
  • Make measures do double duty. Wherever possible, leverage indicators that can be used for performance improvement in combination with metrics that leadership can use to assess the program. For instance, in clinical treatment programs of PTSD, providers use a measure to diagnose PTSD and gauge treatment progress at the individual patient level. The measure can also be used to produce aggregated data to assess program impact. It is the overlap that provides utility for both sets of stakeholders and supports a sustainable evaluation practice – a key component for ECB.
  • Identify a champion. Whether it is the program manager, staff person, or the organization’s leader, find the key stakeholder(s) who understands that evaluation data are potent. Leverage their support to get others interested in creating a learning organization.

Cool Trick: Excel is Your Friend

  • An Excel database provides awesome storage, data management, and dashboarding tools for clients. There is no need to recommend expensive software with a steep learning curve when they likely already have Excel. You will need to set up the data architecture, statistical formulae, output, and provide a training session so they use it after you are gone.

Rad Resources: ECB, Excel, and Beyond

I hope this gives you inspiration to investigate ECB for your next client! If you’re interested in learning more about issues in evaluation of military and veteran programs, please join our TIG via the AEA web site or contact me at


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating MVE TIG Week with our colleagues in the Military and Veteran’s Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MVE TIG 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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