AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | GPRA

Hello! My name is Jennifer Battis and I am a Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator (TTAC) at the Center for Social Innovation in Needham, MA. As a TTAC, I have been providing trainings on how to use and make the most of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Performance Accountability and Reporting System (SPARS). SPARS is the online data entry and reporting system grantees use to submit timely and accurate performance Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) data to SAMHSA. Having previously been a longtime evaluator, I know that it can sometimes be quite a challenge to achieve buy-in from local-level staff about grant reporting requirements, so I would like to spend some time talking about how you can make the most of the data you are collecting to add value to your local programs and evaluations.

A simple way to do this is to use your grant data in your sustainability planning.  There are several ways that you can use required data as you plan for sustainability after your grant ends. Grantees can use their required data to create program fact sheets that provide community members, program participants, funders, and other stakeholders with information about who the program serves, program components, and program effectiveness. Program fact sheets can be used within sustainability planning to market your program at community health fairs to build relationships and inform the community about your program. Program fact sheets can also be an effective way to demonstrate program outcomes to potential funders.

As you build your program fact sheet, start with these steps:

  1. Consider your target audience; does it include—
    • Funders?
    • Community members?
    • Ancillary service providers?
  2. Think about which data variables might be of interest to each target audience and best illustrate the contributions you make to your clients’ lives. For example, a fact sheet for community members can describe the population you serve, program components, and improvements in key areas such as substance use, housing stability, or employment.

Hot Tip: To make things even easier for you, SPARS has automatically generated reports allowing grantees easy access to data about your program, including outcomes data.

Hot Tip: Consider ways to include case studies, quotes, and other qualitative information from your program participants in your fact sheet.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH 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.

Hi, I’m Terrence (Terry) Tutchings, owner of Terrence R. Tutchings, Ph.D. & Associates, a consulting company that provides training and support of evidence-based processes, services and data for management and accountability related to substance abuse intervention and treatment, HIV interventions, and public health campaigns and inter-group relations. In this blog, I emphasize that it is critical we continue to collect and report Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) performance data.

Most of our clients are faith-based organizations and community-based organizations with federal and state grants and contracts requiring submission of GPRA performance data.  We started “doing GPRA” in 1995 with a SAMHSA Community Coalition grant in south Texas. The Coalition has been in continuous operation for 23 years and GPRA data have helped our clients focus their programs and record-keeping. GPRA data have been part of many successful applications for funding from government and philanthropic sources. GPRA data were critical components of published manuscripts and presentations at professional meetings.

Read Any Reviews Lately?

Jennifer Szalai gets right to it in the recent New York Times’ Books of the Times. In his latest book, The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis asks “amiable civil servants” to enumerate the risks that confront government today:

“Many of the problems our government grapples with aren’t particularly ideological,” Lewis writes . . . you’ll be turning the pages as he recounts the (often surprising) . . . risks one through four (an attack by North Korea, war with Iran, etc.) before you learn that the scary-sounding “fifth risk” of the title is — brace yourself — “project management.”

Szalai summarizes: “If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system?those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.”

Why bother to “keep the machinery running?”  

In September 2017, the state of GPRA was reported in GAO’s MANAGING FOR RESULTS, Further Progress Made in Implementing the GPRA Modernization Act, but Additional Actions Needed to Address Pressing Governance Challenges.  Public servants at GAO and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) propose to keep alive the original intent and expanded scope of GPRAMA. They note:

“Full implementation of GPRAMA could facilitate efforts to reform the federal government and make it more effective. . . GPRAMA implementation has affected the federal government’s progress in resolving key governance challenges in 1) addressing cross­cutting issues, 2) ensuring performance information is useful and used, 3) aligning daily operations with results, and 4) building a more transparent and open government.”

They go on to state, “In addition to following through on plans to resume implementation of key GPRAMA provisions, GAO recommends that OMB: 1) consider . . . developing the program inventory, 2) revise . . . inventory implementation, 3) . . . expanding the use of data-driven reviews, and 4) update Performance.gov to explain that reporting on priority goals was suspended . . . OMB staff agreed with these recommendations.”

Summary: Updated publications addressing accountability questions for CEOs, COOs, CFOs, accountants, professional organizations – and evaluation colleagues – continue to point in the direction proposed by GAO—full implementation of GPRAMA.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH 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.

 

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