Just knowing what works, or how things work, may not be sufficient for sustainable program evaluation. Often clients want their staff to learn enough about evaluation to understand what the measurements mean, to be conversant with professional program evaluators or, more ambitiously, to be able to create and run a continuous evaluation system in-house. NRC has developed trainings and classroom curricula that prepare human service staff to understand and, if it is the intent, to conduct credible program evaluation. Our trainings cover such topics as general principles of program evaluation, logic model development, focus group facilitation, data analysis and reporting, and uses of results as well as data collection and survey research design. We have written texts and curricula designed to be understood easily by lay audiences and to be fun and interactive. We work with clients to identify the kind of capacity that is sought and to specify examples from local practice that NRC can use to make our trainings, curricula and tool kits relevant and stimulating. Our individual technical assistance provides clients with the resources to craft data collection instruments, administer surveys and to analyze and report results. We have developed toolkits of survey questions that make the data collection, analysis and reporting process remarkably easy. We intend to make evaluation sustainable in community based organizations.
Sometimes part of building the capacity of programs to conduct their own evaluations requires that we create and install a database that captures and reports important program and client information. Often we use Microsoft Access™ as the database engine and we program it to suit the needs of the client. Sometimes we create Microsoft Excel™ spreadsheets to provide simple do-to-yourself data entry and analysis. In both cases, we provide training with simple examples so that clients can continue with data collection, storage and uncomplicated data analysis on their own.
Our extensive work with community based organizations has led NRC to innovate a new model for evaluation capacity building. Called “insourcing,” this model protects community based organizations’ limited resources—in staff time and more—and creates economies of scale by drawing together like organizations for whom inexpensive, moderately standardized outcome measurement can be performed (Miller, Kobayashi & Noble).
We have trained staff from a variety of programmatic backgrounds: after-school, physical activity, diabetes prevention, older adult service provision, community food programs, youth services, and general human service provision. Our evaluation handbooks cover the topics of older adults, after-school programming, positive youth development, community food security and performance measurement of community based organizations.
Miller, T. I, Kobayashi, M. M. & Noble, P. M. (in press). Insourcing, Not Capacity Building, a Better Model for Sustained Program Evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation.