What is wrong with traditional evaluation of projects?Evaluation is often beset with a culture of audit and control. The resulting reports feature data and description but little on the important processes that underlies how a certain result has been attained. It becomes difficult for others to learn from this experience and then apply what seems relevant to them in their own setting.
How can it be different?If programmes are to be useful then there does need to be evidence of measures of ‘usefulness’. However, for others to learn from programmes, and possibly replicate what has worked, then more has to be made visible of how and why a programme has been successful, from who’s point of view, and how it relates to other examples of so-called ‘best practice’. Such tools are best devised with those involved with the programme at every opportunity, rather than imposed from outside.
How do we do it then?
By adopting a person-centred evaluation approach. By this we mean that we
1. Evaluate from the inside:
By the implementers . These collect at least some of the data internally. This will reinforce the notion that evaluation is the responsibility of those leading it, starts from the beginning and not at the end, and needs to be built in as best practice.
By the service users. Ultimately it is their programme, it’s for them. Why should evaluation be purely something that’s done to people, rather than with them? Using action learning groups focused on evaluation helps to get the message across that checking on progress, being reflective about how the person is developing, or not, through this initiative, is a part of what they do on the programme not apart from it. This on-going approach is far more powerful for participants than purely waiting until the end and the evaluation just ‘sums-up’ what has happened.
2. Evaluate from the outside:
Aspects Associates, an external research source with expertise in programme evaluation and facilitation, will guarantee confidentiality to ensure participants share more detailed and candid information. Among those techniques that are more appropriate to use are: interviews;focus groups; self-inventories/blogs/diaries; rating scales.
The complexity of programme development and delivery needs to be recognised. Just who are the providers? Frequently, these are a combination of partners -programme leaders, in-house or outside providers - so any external evaluator needs to recognise a tangled web of relationship. Yet to evaluate fully, this web of relationship needs to be identified and involved in the evaluation. These processes call for a clear understanding of boundaries of provision - who is providing what, and is that clearly understood by the parties involved.
So follow the lead of Birmingham City Council, The National Youth Agency and Sheffield City Council in contracting Aspects Associates for your person-centred evaluation of projects.