Last week, a colleague and I led two, 20 person cohorts in a two-day evaluation capacity building event. This activity was the launch (without the benefit of champagne ) of a 17-month long experience where the participants will learn new evaluation skills and then be able to serve as resources for their colleagues in their states. This training is the brain-child of the Extension Western Region Program Leaders group. They believe that this approach will be economical and provide significant substantive information about evaluation to the participants.
What Jim and I did last week was work to, hopefully, provide a common introduction to evaluation. The event was not meant to disseminate the vast array of evaluation information. We wanted everyone to have a similar starting place. It was not a train-the-trainer event, so common in Extension. The participants were at different places in their experience and understanding of program evaluation–some were seasoned, long-time Extension faculty, some were mid-career, some were brand new to Extension and the use of evaluation. All were Extension faculty from western states. And although evaluation can involve programs, policies, personnel, products, performance, processes, etc…these two days focused on program evaluation.
It occurred to me that it would be useful to talk about what is evaluation capacity building (ECB) and what resources are available to build capacity. Perhaps, the best place to start is with the Preskill and Russ-Eft book by the same name, Evaluation Capacity Building.
This volume is filled with summaries of evaluation points and there are activities to reinforce those points. Although this is a comprehensive resource, it covers key points briefly and there are other resources s that are valuable to understand the field of capacity building. For example, Don Compton and his colleagues, Michael Baizerman and Stacey Stockdill edited a New Directions in Evaluation volume (No. 93) that addresses the art, craft, and science of ECB. ECB is often viewed as a context-dependent system of processes and practices that help instill quality evaluation skills in an organization and its members. The long term outcome of any ECB is the ability to conduct a rigorous evaluation as part of routine practice. That is our long-term goal–conducting rigorous evaluations as a part of routine practice.
Although not exhaustive, below are some ECB resources and some general evaluation resources (some of my favorites, to be sure).
Preskill, H. & Russ-Eft, D. (2005). Building Evaluation Capacity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Compton, D. W. Baizerman, M., & Stockdill, S. H. (Ed.). (2002). The art, craft, and science of evaluation capacity building. New Directions for Evaluation, No. 93. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Preskill, H. & Boyle, S. (2008). A multidisciplinary model of evalluation capacity building. American Journal of Evaluation, 29 (4), 443-459.
General evaluation resources:
Fitzpatrick, J. L., Sanders, J. R., & Worthen, B. R. (4th ed.). (2011). Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Scriven, M. (4th ed.). (1991). Evaluation Thesaurus. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Patton, M. Q. (4th ed.). (2008). Utilization-focused evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Patton, M. Q. (2012). Essentials of utilization-focused evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Hi! It’s Tuesday, again.
I was thinking–If evaluation is an everyday activity, why does it FEEL so monumental–you know–over whelming, daunting, aversive even
I can think of several reasons for that feeling:
All those are good reasons. Yet, in today’s world you have to show your programs are making a difference. You have to provide evidence of impact. To do that (show impact, making a difference) you must evaluate your program.
How do you make your evaluation manageable? How do you make it an everyday activity? Here are several ways.
We can talk more about the how, later. Now it is enough to know that evaluation isn’t as monumental as you thought.