Why would anyone want to read about program evaluation? To own it, is the best answer we can come up with. Program evaluation is an inherently political activity. It competes for and uses resources, it articulates a program's goals, it defines criteria for success, and it can be used to justify continuing a program or eliminating it. As a practical matter, few programs are eliminated based the results of a program evaluation, mostly, they are changed, so we don't believe that most of the politics resides there. In our view, the political nature of evaluation is manifest most when it articulates goals and defines what success will look like. Yes, everyone in a well run organization knows what its goals are-- but often only in a very general and vague sense. Evaluation forces a program's stakeholders to sit down and specify the connections between what they want, what they do, and what they actually see. To be sure, we've evaluated programs that make a point of not having clearly articulated goals. But even then, the process of creating instrumentation, collecting data, and then searching through it for interpretations and meanings filters some things in and some things out.
So this blog is going to about these kinds of choices.