Need practical how-to info that aims to help you build your evaluation capacity? This collection includes suggested readings from our friends at BetterEvaluation, the Center for Evaluation Innovation, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations as well as hand-picked content by Candid. Thousands of actual evaluations are  available for download.

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Beyond the Numbers

January 12, 2016

In discussing EVALUATION AND IMPACT, it is easy to get caught up in a numbers game. There is tremendous pressure to report on how our work is making a difference, and scale ("Billions and billions served!") seems like the most expedient way to demonstrate why our organizations and our programs matter. When the goal is simple volume – for example, how many people can we move through this drive-in window? – the metrics can indeed be straightforward. But if the goal is changing social behaviors – how can we get students to stay in school, or how can we break the cycle of poverty, or how can we improve health outcomes? – the numbers can tell us a great deal, but rarely can they tell a complete story.

Types of Evaluation: Which is Right for You?

November 19, 2015

What we talk about when we talk about impactVery often, we hear the words "evaluation" and "impact" used interchangeably. Impact evaluation is a type of evaluation, but it is not the only one. Impact evaluation looks to determine the changes that can be directly attributable to a program or intervention. And as we all know, in the complicated landscape of the kinds of social change work that we are typically looking to evaluate, it is very difficult – if not impossible -- to attribute behavioral, attitudinal, or other outcomes directly to a particular program.What follows is an overview of evaluation models that are frequently referenced in evaluation literature. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, we hope it will offer a starting point to think about the different approaches you can take to evaluate your program, strategy, or intervention. This list is adapted from various sources, which are referenced at the end of this post.Evaluation approachesFormative Evaluation or Needs Assessment EvaluationWhen you might use it• During development of a new programWhat it can show• Identifies areas for improvementWhy it can be useful• Allows program to be modified before full implementation beginsSummative Evaluation or Outcomes EvaluationWhen you might use it• After program implementation has begun• At pre-determined intervals of an existing program • At the conclusion of a program What it can show• Degree to which program is having effect on knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors of target populationWhy it can be useful• Effectiveness of program against its stated objectives (at particular milestones)Process / Monitoring EvaluationWhen you might use it• When program implementation begins• During operation of existing programWhat it can show• Extent to which program is being implemented as designedWhy it can be useful• Provides early warning if things are not progressing as planned• Distinguishes program design (theory of change, logic model) from implementationDevelopmental EvaluationWhen you might use it• During implementation of a particularly complex or innovative program• In conditions of high uncertaintyWhat it can show• Emergence – patterns that emerge from interactions from groups of participants• Dynamic adaptations – extent to which program is affected by interactions between and among participantsWhy it can be useful• Can incorporate "nontraditional" concepts such as non-linearity, uncertainty, rapid cycling, vision-driven (rather that metrics-driven)Empowerment EvaluationWhen you might use it• To support a community in building evaluation capacityWhat it can show• Community knowledge and assetsWhy it can be useful• Is designed for inclusion, participation, increased capacity, and community ownership

Evaluation Vs Research: Understanding the Why and How

October 21, 2015

The latest news and occasional commentary about what's happening at the Foundation and around our great state. 

Demystifying Evaluation

September 1, 2015

Evaluation is one of those terms that can get a bad rap. Often used interchangeably with "accountability," "measurement," "assessment," and "outcomes," the basic reasons why one might undertake evaluative activities can easily become subsumed under a shroud of potential blame or a sense of failure. Used well, and used thoughtfully, evaluation activities are simply tools to help you better understand your own work and to help arm you with information to make better, more-informed decisions.