Another word for use
Another word for utilization is use; how does one use the information gathered? What does one do with what it knows?
I’m reading a book by Warren Bennis, the American scholar who pioneered the contemporary field of leadership studies. He died in July 2014. The book, called Why leaders can’t lead: The unconscious conspiracy continues, was first written in 1989, and many references are old (read Nixon, Regan). No matter; still relevant, like walking into the world of American politics TODAY (see page 99, specifically on wins and losses).
Use the reports
Now, Michael Quinn Patton (who has written a lot on a lot of topics) writes books on utilization .
The 4th edition of Utilization-Focused Evaluation is 667 pages and the Essentials is 461 pages. (I confess that I’ve only read the preface and scattered other pages of the 667 page version.)
For those of you who do not know Michael, he is the founder and director of Utilization-Focused Evaluation. He says that it is important to use the results of evaluation. Patton advocates that evaluations should be designed with careful consideration of how everything is done.
You (the evaluator) can design evaluations that ensure their usefulness. Long reports may typically never get read or never result in any practical changes.
Utilization-focused evaluation is a process that helps intended (read primary) users make decisions about the evaluation. Patton “support(s) evaluation designed for intended use by intended users.”
Knowing intended users
Sometimes knowing the intended users isn’t easy. Are the intended users the funding agency? Or are they the program people? Perhaps they are the clients of the program (intervention). Sometimes it is program people and evaluators. Sometimes it is all of the above. Obviously, the intended user needs to be identified early.
The purpose of the evaluation, criteria for success, methods, and timelines all have to be determined. The primary intended user of the evaluation is the person who decides these key issues. But before these issues can be determined, the primary intended user of the evaluation needs to be identified.
Often these folks are called “stakeholders”. They are people who have a vested interest in the evaluation findings. Or it could be individuals with direct or indirect interest in the program’s effectiveness. On page 61, Patton cites Jennifer Greene (1) who divides the stakeholders into four groups.
Recently, I received a comment from a reader that talks about use. I doubt if he intended it that way; it made sense to me. He said, “In the end feedback should be used (emphasis mine) to improve upon the job done.” (CharlesJason001@gmail.com) If people cannot identify the primary intended user(s), what is the purpose of the feedback (the evaluation)?
pee ess: Happy Holidays (that’s Hanukah [even though it ended Tuesday], Solstice [today at 8:28 am], Christmas [including the 12 days], Boxing Day [for those of you who celebrate such], and Kwanzaa [I’ sure I’m forgetting some; all except Boxing Day involve light]).
- Greene, J. (2006.) “Stakeholders” pp397-398 in Encyclopedia of Evaluation, edited by S. Mathison. Thousand Oaks. CA: Sage.