Building evidence

Why evaluate a program?

It is not easy knowing whether a program is working as planned, or if it needs improvements or adaptations. Like using a recipe to make a dish, we need to document what ingredients we will need and what steps we need to follow.  In program evaluation, documenting your work allows you to see if the “ingredients and steps” of your program are working, or if they need adjustments. Unlike a recipe, evaluation allows you to understand how effective your program is, program strengths and weaknesses, its cost-effectiveness, opportunities to expand, and whether the community might be better served by another program. This is valuable information when you need to apply for new or renewed funding.

What is my purpose in evaluating my program?

The reasons for conducting evaluation can be diverse and include both internal and external factors. When you plan to evaluate a program it is important to clearly identify the reasons why you are collecting information about the program. This will inform your evaluation activities. Table.1 consists of a series of questions that offer guidance in identifying the purpose for evaluating your program.

Who should I include in conducting evaluation activities?

Another essential element of evaluation work is engaging other people who can support your evaluation process. We usually refer to them as the stakeholders.  Stakeholders can be members of your community, members of your organization, or people who have connections with the communities you serve.  To help you to identify the key stakeholders of your program we suggest the following steps:

  1. Start by brainstorming a list of potential stakeholders in the community and in the organization.
  2. Consider reviewing the questions on the following table to narrow the list of stakeholders.

In the following section – How do I start? – we will explain in detail the first steps in conducting an evaluation.