Tom Chapel on Demand for Evaluation and Great Evaluation Resources

I’m Tom Chapel, the Chief Evaluation Officer (acting) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I’ve also served as co-chair of the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute since its inception.  The Institute turns 10 years old this June and, with that in mind, I wanted to share a lesson learned and a couple of great resources for evaluators.

Lesson learned: Understand the difference between “primary” and “secondary” demand for a product or service.

  • Primary demand – milk is good for you… Got milk?
  • Secondary demand –buy [brand] milk because it is locally farmed/cheap/vitamin-reinforced etc.

This simple, fundamental marketing principle has import for evaluators.  The primary demand we draw from is the desire of programs to make an impact, understand their program, report out success.  Sometimes that secondary demand plays out as what we recognize as “program evaluation” but just as often, the relevant product/approach is performance measurement, quality assurance, or strategic planning.  Sometimes, I’ll be leading a leadership meeting for one of our programs.  I will be creating some simple logic models with them, but deploying those to affirm mission/vision and make some strategic decisions.  The word evaluation may not even come up.  But being present and involved in that conversation, and using key tools in my evaluator arsenal, I know I’m setting them up for strong evaluation later.  By reframing our thinking as evaluators so that we talk about organized reflection on a program—whether processes or outcomes—we reinforce the idea of continuous program improvement and the integration of planning, performance measurement , and evaluation.

Two useful resources from CDC:

Resource: CDC’s Framework for Program Evaluation, while originating within public health, is broadly applicable in many contexts and reinforces the idea of use of findings for program improvement. The Framework’s website provides a detailed explanation of the framework as well as multiple resources that support its implementation.

Resource: CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control just released Evaluation for Improvement: A Seven-Step Empowerment Evaluation Approach. This manual is designed to help violence prevention organizations hire an empowerment evaluator who will assist them in building their evaluation capacity through a learn-by-doing process of evaluating their own strategies. But any organization considering empowerment evaluation may also find it valuable.

Hot Tip: If you want to enhance your evaluation-related knowledge and skills, join over 500 of your colleagues at the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute. This is our 10th year; we welcome attendees from any discipline to Atlanta from June 13-16 for professional learning and networking.

1 thought on “Tom Chapel on Demand for Evaluation and Great Evaluation Resources”

  1. Hi Tom, Thank you very much for your post. I found your identification of a need to re-frame our thinking in terms of organized reflection on programs to be very insightful. Best regards, Cindy W.

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