Capturing data for a program evaluation is often done outside of a program’s normal processes. Evaluators parachute in with the various data collection tools they need to gather information about your program and in the process often interrupt normal workflows. If staff have to manage distributing and collecting various surveys and other forms it can add significantly to their workload. Worse, it can alienate program participants who may not understand why outsiders have suddenly appeared to poke and prod them. When evaluation work is superimposed in this way, stakeholders may come to see it as something external to their work and for this reason may be less inclined to buy in to what the findings suggest.
We believe that evaluation data is best captured as part of existing program processes. In most cases these processes may need to be modified slightly in order to collect information that isn’t part of existing protocols. In others, it may be necessary to modify not just what is collected but how it is gathered, and significantly, how it is stored. Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to gathering the data needed to assess a program’s impacts, but the strategies outlined below can reduce the cost of that lunch and make it easier to digest. [Read more…]