To mention the word evaluation conjures for many an image of an 'irritating' activity which generates 'mind-numbing' data which in turn provides 'irrelevant' conclusions. These images are more accurate of service evaluation in it's earlier days, where evaluation accuracy, reliability and validity were highly focussed on. While these elements of evaluation remain as highly important, you will find that evaluation in today's not for profit sector has increased focus on evaluation use, relevance, and practicality (thanks especially to Michael Patton's development of 'Utilization-focussed Evaluation',[see 'food for thought links below].)
Many people want to believe that evaluation of, say for instance, a peer support programme means proving the success (or limitations) of the programme, and then never having to evaluate again. Unfortunately this belief is not reality; success means being open to continuous feedback, and adjusting the service according to feedback. Evaluation is how you gain this valuable feedback, and check to make sure you don't have the common 'swing' problem (see picture below).
Evaluation in the NGO sector, therefore, is the careful collection of information about the NGO's service/s in order to inform decisions and/or changes which may need to be made to ensure the service is accomplishing their mission.
Why Evaluate Services?
There are many reasons why evaluating your service/s is a good idea. Some of the main reasons are so that you can: 1. Understand your services and service users
2. Improve service efficiency and cost effectiveness
3. Verify that you are doing what you think you're doing (see depiction above)
4. Produce information you can use to market your service
5. Base service comparisons on concrete information
6. Provide a description of your service which can be duplicated (for example if your service has achieved outstanding results which others wish to see if they can match in their region).
7. Develop an evidence base which can be used to gain additional support for a service.
What type of evaluation should be used?
There are over 35 different types of evaluation (see diagram below), not including the different methods which can be used to complete the evaluation! For an introduction to evaluation types, methods, analysis and reporting - follow the link below:
Food for thought: