First, let me say that getting to world peace will not happen in my lifetime (sigh…) and world peace is the ultimate impact. Everything else is an outcome. It may be a long term outcome, that is a condition change (either social, economic, environmental, or civic), or not. Just because the powers that be use a term doesn’t mean the term is being used correctly!
Then let me say that evaluation is the way to know you got to that impact…ultimately, world peace. Ultimately. In the mean time, you will need to find approximate (proxy) measures.
Last week, I attended the Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference in State College, PA, home of Penn State. I had the good fortune to see long time friends, meet new people and get a few new ideas. One of the long time friends I was able to visit with was Nancy Franz, Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University. She did a session called “Four steps to measuring and articulating engagement impact”.
Basically she reduced into four steps (hence, the title) program evaluation. And since engagement scholarship is a “program” it needs to be evaluated to make sure it is making a difference. Folks are slowly coming to that idea if the attendance at her session is any indication (full). She used different words than I would have used; I found myself adding parenthetical comments to her words.
I want to share in words what she shared graphically:
- In order to be able to conduct these four steps, you need evaluation training, evaluation support, and successful models;
- STEP 1: You need to map the intended program (my parenthetical was the “logic model” for which she provided the UWEX web site);
- STEP 2: You need to determine what “impact” will be measured (input vs. outcome);
- STEP 3: You need to collect and analyze data (qualitative and quantitative);
- STEP 4: You need to tell the story (when, what, so what, now what; the public value);
- If you do these four steps she believes that you will enhance paid and volunteer staff performance; increase program quality; and improve impact reporting (be persuasive).
She had a few good suggestions; specifically:
- Since most people don’t like to analyze data (because they do not know how?), she holds a data party to look at what was found; and
- Case studies have value; use them.
- I added, “If you aren’t going to use the data, do not collect it. It only obfuscates the impact.”
Think about what you do when you evaluate a program. Do you do these four steps? Do you know what impact you are trying to achieve? And if you can’t get to world peace, that’s OK. Each step will bring you closer.