Last week, the National Outreach Scholarship Conference was held at Michigan State University campus. There was an impressive array of speakers and presentations. I had the luxury of attending Michael Quinn Patton’s session on Utilization-focused Evaluation. And although the new edition of the book is 600+ pages, Michael distilled the essentials down. He also announced a new book (only 400+ pages) called The Essentials of Utilization Focused Evaluation. . This volume is geared to practitioners as opposed to the classroom or the academic.
One take away message for me was this: “Context changes the focus of ‘use’ “. So if you have a context whereby the reports are only for accounting purposes, the report will look very different from a context whereby the reports are for detailing the difference being made. Now, this sounds very intuitive. Like, DUH, Molly, tell me something I don’t know. Yet this is so important because you, as the evaluator, have the responsibility and the obligation to prepare stakeholders to use data in OTHER ways than as a reporting activity. That responsibility and obligation is tied to the Program Evaluation Standards. The Joint Committee revised the standards after soliciting feedback from multiple sources. This 3rd Ed. addresses with numerous examples and discussion the now five standards. These standards are:
Apparently, there was considerable discussion as the volume was being compiled that Accountability needed to be first. Think about it, folks. If Accountability was first, then evaluations would build on “the responsible use of resources to produce value.” Implementation, improvement, worth, and costs would drive evaluation. By placing utilization first, evaluators have the responsibility and obligation to base judgements “…on the extent to which program stakeholders find evaluation processes and products valuable in meeting their needs…to examine the variety of possible uses for evaluation processes, findings, and products.”
Certainly validates use as defined in Utilization-Focused Evaluation. Take Michael’s workshop. The American Evaluation Association is offering this workshop at its annual meeting, in Anaheim, CA and the workshop is on Wednesday, November 2. Go to eval.org and click on Evaluation Conference. If you can’t join the workshop–Read the book! (either one). It is well worth it.