Program Design Week: Alvin Yapp on Using Evaluation to Inform Program Design

I’m Alvin Yapp, an evaluator with the Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network (EOPCN), a team of doctors and other health providers, such as nurses, dietitians, kinesiologists, mental health workers, and pharmacists. We work as a team to provide coordinated primary health care to patients. I lead the evaluation efforts at EOPCN. In this post, I share my experiences in using evaluation to inform the design of primary health care programs.

I have found evaluation to be a powerful tool for program design; evaluators can help create a framework to gather evidence which informs program development. I have found that evaluators can positively influence program design through the following activities:

  1. Identify important indicators to examine in order to measure success of the program.Teams that design programs without clear indicators of success and a plan to measure those indicators will have a difficult time identifying problems and fixing them.

2. Embed evaluation processes into the processes of the program; evaluation is a part of the program.

If the evaluation processes are a key part of the program and clearly articulated from the beginning, staff will be much more engaged with evaluation activities (i.e., providing feedback) and the quality of the data will be higher.

3. Provide periodic check-ins of indicators to support ongoing development.

This does not have to take the form of a weekly written report, but can be regular team huddles around what the data is currently showing and informal conversations about possible problems and solutions.

4. Support evidence-based program changes.

Use the evidence from evaluation activities to inform and rationalize changes to the program.

Hot Tip: Spend some time instilling a culture of evaluation into the team/organization. If the team understands that you are there to support the design and success of their program, they will be much more open with identifying areas where the program can improve. That said, do not overburden them with evaluation activities; they still have a program to design and implement!

Lesson Learned in Evaluating Developing Programs: Program development does not happen in a straight line. Be nimble. Plan as much as you can, and plan for those plans to go wrong.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Program Design TIG Week with our colleagues in the Program Design Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Program Design 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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