Tackling Organizational Challenges with Evaluation Tools by Elizabeth DiLuzio

Happy weekend! I’m Elizabeth DiLuzio, volunteer curator for AEA365, and lately I have been captivated by the brilliance of the tools for which we are best known: the Theory of Change (TOC) and the Logic Model (LM). What I learned about them in grad school was a bit reductive: that they are products to be created at the beginning of an evaluation for the purpose of communicating the way an organization, program, or initiative works. And while this is true, I have learned from my peers since then that their real power lies in the conversations and revelations that emerge when stakeholders gather to collaboratively create them. It turns out that they are not only tools but a valuable problem-solving process!

Hot Tips

Here are some examples of challenges in the life of a program, organization, or initiative where you might consider engaging in either (or both) of these processes.

The moment: When a program needs to take its next step or make a strategic shift

The goal: To inform strategic decisions

How these tools can help: Engaging in a TOC process will help your stakeholders to co-create a vision of their desired impact and pool their wisdom about societal, economic, political, and institutional influences that will either help or hinder the process. Any strategic decision becomes easier when made from this shared understanding.

The moment: When the program is expanding or experiencing turnover

The goal: To acculturate new stakeholders

How these tools can help: Finalized versions of a program’s TOC and LM serve as excellent communication tools in the onboarding of new stakeholders. They provide the reader the essential information about a program: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

The moment: New research, trends, or funding requirements emerge

The goal: To foster adaptation

How these tools can help: Gather stakeholders together to revise both documents, beginning with the TOC. How can this new information be incorporated into the current way of thinking? Then, move on to the LM. How will this new information impact the current way of doing business? Make any additions and changes needed as the discussions unfold.

The moment: Unexpected, undesirable, or inconsistent feedback from constituents emerges

The goal: To improve practice / course correct

How these tools can help: Use the logic model to assess program fidelity. See if there are unaligned practices in place that might be causing the feedback. If the program is operating as intended, revisit the TOC to see if there are aspects of the program’s underlying theory that need to be revised.

The moment: Program practice is misaligned

The goal: To codify practices

How these tools can help: Convene stakeholders and begin by creating a TOC. Use the process to assess which activities being implemented are aligned and which should be cut. Then, either revise or create a LM to describe the new way of working.

The moment: An opportunity to create a new program or initiative has arisen

The goal: To spark innovation

How these tools can help: Use the TOC process to dream about the end goal for participants. Then, identify the levers and obstacles. Next, create a LM to outline the day-to-day practices.

Now it’s your turn: When else have you used a TOC or LM to initiate programmatic change with stakeholders? Share with us in the comments below or in our Evaluators’ Slack Channel, where you can comment, share links, and even upload resources. It’s easy to join and free to use. We’ll see you there!

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our SIM 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “Tackling Organizational Challenges with Evaluation Tools by Elizabeth DiLuzio”

  1. Hello Elizabeth!
    I am in an undergraduate Program Evaluation Class and your first hot tip made me think of some of the things we learned so far. For instance your hot tip being “When a program needs to take its next step or make a strategic shift”. This is can be found out based off of a program evaluation, an evaluator can see if the population for the program is being met and if enough out sourcing is being done to ensure the targeted population knows about the program. The evaluator can ask participants if their needs for the program are being met and if not how they could improve it, etc.. All of which could help let a program know when a next step is needed.

  2. Elizabeth DiLuzio,

    You did an amazing job giving explanations as to what is going on at that given moment, what the end goal is, and what tips that could be used for that specific moment. In planning to complete things such as large projects, it is important that all areas of the projects are included in decision throughout the process. When changes are made, you do a good job in explaining the assembly of the group and who needs to be included and what the end goal is. It is important to ensure that the stake-holders are in control of the project, as they are the ones providing funding and using the end goal of the project.

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