Program evaluation. So many options and moving parts. So many potential approaches that evaluation looks kaleidoscopic.
We recently undertook meta-evaluations, at the planning level, within my grad school cohort. I loved reading about the diverse projects my colleagues are designing, and thinking about how we’ve devised diverse evaluations in response.
There’s no one-size fits all eval because the programs themselves are complex and varied. Evaluations reflect the programs (“evaluands”), the questions that stakeholders are asking, the skill and knowledge of the evaluator, resources like money and time.
Reading through several eval plans helped me realize how essential evaluation skills are for building the capacity of individuals and organizations.
Although I’m not aware of a professional association for nonprofit program directors, I imagine if there were one, evaluation skills would be an central skill set to help directors develop, alongside the better-attended-to worlds of budgeting, fundraising, communications, people and project management, etc.
Participatory eval models like Fetterman’s Empowerment Evaluation seem perfect for such a purpose, equipping program directors with the feedback they need to make sharp planning and management decisions on an ongoing basis.