Filed Under (criteria, program evaluation) by Molly on 04-08-2015

The use of the term impact is problematic, as I see it. If you (or any evaluator) are going to have an impact, if your program is going to have an impact, if you are going to do anything other than focus on the outcomes, how will you know? Scriven, in his Thesauras Scriven book cover, says an impact evaluation is an evaluation which focuses on outcomes rather than process, progress (delivery), or implementation. (Is that an example of using the word to define the word?) Is an impact evaluation the same as an evaluation which captures the outcomes?

When Taylor-Powell  ellentaylorpowell, first developed the logic model adopted by USDA, logicmodel, she identified three levels of outcomes that built from the previous level–short, medium, and long term. (One document I read says long term outcomes are impacts.)  These levels are often translated to learning, action, and condition outcomes. The learning level translates into the KASAs that evaluators know and love (because they are often easiest to capture when dealing with program participants). Evaluators can find them everywhere (see Bennett Bennett Hierarchy, Kirkpatrick). The action level  translates into behavior change and the condition level translates into changes in conditions.

So are changes in conditions the same as impacts? Is changing the condition (social, environmental, economic) the same as impact at that condition?. Is impact just another word for long term outcome? I don’t think so. I think impact is when there are multiple long term changes that result in a major change (see change, possibly; world peace, probably). I think that the word smiths wanted to find something that had pizazz and decided that the word impact had that. Using the word impact is so much more than outcomes, even if they mean the same thing. For me, an outcome is something that I can see in my life time (hopefully); an impact is something that I work towards. You know: be the change I want to see.

But then language in evaluation is not precise (not unlike English). So if the folks who set the standards (you know, people with the money) use impact, I guess we will use impact. Keep in mind that you may not see the impact you want.

my two cents.


P. S. I will be on holiday next week; so no blog post. I’ll be out of the office until August 18, 2015.



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