Monday, January 11, 2010

Some Program Evaluation Reading and Listening

Two things of note we've come across recently: A book called Developing a Learning Culture in Nonprofit Organizations by Stephen Gill and a story by Emily Hanford on the impacts of pre-school recently aired by American Radio Works. We'll be blogging about these two pieces in the future but wanted to give them each a plug right away.

How are they related? The American Radio Works piece in fascinating to the extent that it discusses the unintended outcomes of a social program- pre-k schools for disadvantaged kids. How often do we think about assessing unintended outcomes (both good and bad)? How often do we build evaluation designs that allow us to capture them? The Hanford piece shows the importance of being able to look beyond what we are looking for. The Gill book talks about how, by promoting a learning culture, organizations can facilitate this.

What do both books have to do with program evaluation? They both lead us to the conclusion that evaluators ought to move away from the business of evaluating programs (which they have certainly begun to do over the last decade) and move towards supporting organizations in their efforts to learn from their work.

More in the coming weeks.


Jara Dean-Coffey said...

I just added some books to my Amazon shopping list. Thanks!

When I first entered the field of evaluation (if I am honest 20 years ago), I struggled with how it was typically used and perceived as primarily a way to determine worth. Not to say that worth is not important but it always seemed to me its greatest value was as a tool to forward social justice, equity and in that vein support the learning of those engaged in the work as well as those seeking to learn from others. Through the readings of Torres and Preskill I found new language (evaluative inquiry) that supported my inclination and belief.

It has been reassuring to hear the variety of voices across sectors and disciplines that are speaking to the importance of the connection/linkage of evaluation and learning.

Looking forward to the evolving discussion, theory and even more so the practice and expectation.

Eric Graig said...

I know Torres and Preskill's book on reporting evaluation findings. It's my second most turned to book after Utilization Focused Evaluation. I will look into Evaluative Inquiry. Thanks for commenting.