Two things of note we’ve come across recently: A book called Developing a Learning Culture in Nonprofit Organizations by Stephen Gill and a story by Emily Hanford on the impacts of pre-school recently aired by American Radio Works. We’ll be blogging about these two pieces in the future but wanted to give them each a plug right away.
How are they related? The American Radio Works piece in fascinating to the extent that it discusses the unintended outcomes of a social program- pre-k schools for disadvantaged kids. How often do we think about assessing unintended outcomes (both good and bad)? How often do we build evaluation designs that allow us to capture them? The Hanford piece shows the importance of being able to look beyond what we are looking for. The Gill book talks about how, by promoting a learning culture, organizations can facilitate this.
What do both books have to do with program evaluation? They both lead us to the conclusion that evaluators ought to move away from the business of evaluating programs (which they have certainly begun to do over the last decade) and move towards supporting organizations in their efforts to learn from their work.
More in the coming weeks.