Thorough planning helps design the steps taken during the evaluation process so that they are most likely to produce informative results.
It is important to begin planning an evaluation at the same time that the program itself is being developed (see TABLE 1).
The following should be identified and clearly defined during this stage:
· The purpose of evaluation (see Section 2: What Is Evaluation?)
· Its stakeholders, whether external or internal (e.g., those who may be involved in the evaluation or be recipients of its results)
o External stakeholders can include the intervention’s target audience, partners involved in developing and delivering the program, community organizations and local actors interested in a given topic, and the media
o Internal stakeholders can include funders, Board of Directors, or governance bodies
· Evaluation methodology, setting the parameters for data collection and appropriate questions (further discussed in Section 3.3: Data Collection)
· Evaluation plan and terms of reference, outlining key actions at various stages of both the evaluation process and program implementation
The following 8 principles can be integrated into the planning of most programs and are helpful in setting the stage for successful evaluations:
1. Do your homework.
What similar interventions have been done? Have they been successful and how have they been carried out? This provides validation for the program and the evaluation approach that may be taken.
2. Decide what needs to be addressed by the intervention.
A program may be designed to raise knowledge and awareness, build particular skills, or change certain behaviors. Knowing what the intervention is intended to influence or change will also identify what is to be measured and evaluated.
3. Define the program’s target audience.
Is this program aimed at a particular group, for example, young people? If so, what age? It may be useful to focus on students as a convenient way of administering the program, if appropriate. In this case, evaluation should include only those who were enrolled both at the start and at the end of the initiative.
The target number of subjects that the intervention is meant to reach should also be identified. Ideally, the sample should be large enough so that the results are still useful even if some participants drop out.
4. Identify the program’s key objectives.
Objectives should be clear, easily measurable, and realistic (i.e., there should be a degree of confidence that they can be achieved); they should also be identified at the very outset—during planning and before implementation of the program.
5. Identify the best approach to achieving the program’s objectives.
This will depend to a large extent on the target audience, local conditions, and resources available. For example, if the literacy rate among the target audience is low, an intervention that relies mostly on written materials is probably not well suited for the given setting.
6. Set up clear criteria for measuring whether the program’s objectives have been met.
How the objectives are measured will depend on what is most appropriate for the program. Where objectives are unrealistic or cannot be measured, the impact of the program cannot be demonstrated even if the program is worthwhile.
7. Determine how best to track progress and uptake of the program.
It is important to determine which method of collecting and analyzing data will be most useful and feasible. In some cases, particularly where large numbers of respondents need to be reached, surveys may be most appropriate. In others, interviews or focus groups are more useful (see Section 3.3: Data Collection).
8. Build in the ability to modify aspects of the program that may not be working.
Clear evaluation criteria and goals will help in the event that some mid-course corrections to the program are needed. Identifying what works and what doesn’t is also useful if an intervention is to be repeated, increasing the likelihood of future success.
Once these questions are addressed, the evaluation goal(s), target audience(s), and available resources will become clear. All this will determine the appropriate approach to evaluation.
Creating an Evaluation Plan is a useful next step. TABLE 3 may be a helpful guide during this process. An evaluation plan can help to
· Identify tasks and deliverables for each evaluation phase
· Assign roles and responsibilities
· Assess available and required resources
· Create a timetable for measuring progress
TABLE 3. Example of AN Evaluation Plan Template
Preparing Terms of Reference for the evaluation at the planning phase can be useful. These can serve as a formal agreement of what will be done, regardless of whether the evaluation is conducted internally or externally. Terms of Reference should include:
· The purpose and timing of the evaluation
· The key questions to be asked
· The requirements of the evaluation team (if conducted externally)
· Expected structure of the report that will present evaluation findings
Depending on the selected evaluation approach, baseline data for future comparison may need to be gathered at this early stage. Section 3.3: Data Collection provides further information on different approaches to data collection.
NEXT – Section 3.3: Data Collection
PREVIOUS SECTION – Section 3.1: Who Should Evaluate?