Program evaluation play a key role in supporting local government decision-making by helping council managers understand whether a program is working, for whom, in what context, when it’s not working, and why not.
Except in larger LGAs, councils often have inadequate time and personnel to learn the specialist skills required to conduct evaluations. Additionally, the atmosphere surrounding local government evaluations can be tense, creating anxiety amongst program staff about the motive behind a request for a detailed evaluation. For example, ‘Is my budget going to be cut?’ or ‘Is this program downsizing or discontinuing?’ are common internal questions and fears, particularly in these tight economic times. But evaluations still need to be conducted so that good governance can continue and strategic decisions be made.
I have seen staff not know where to begin or what to do. Even outsourcing the project can be problematic if staff lack the required skills, confidence or support.
This is why I created my online course Practical Evaluation for Local Government. You can learn more about it here.
In my course I take you through a the process of setting up and conducting an evaluation, including 4 key information areas that council staff should be across:
1. Evaluation principles and terminology
There are a number of broad concepts and terms that are important to understand. They include Criteria of Merit, Importance weighting and Program Logic Models. To understand all of these terms and to know how to apply them is important when setting up an evaluation to ensure that it is meaningful and useful.
2. Setting up an evaluation
To set up an evaluation is to ask some key questions of yourself and your program, and to know how to select the right evaluation approach. For example, will it be a process evaluation? An outcome evaluation? An impact evaluation? Once you’ve decided on your approach you will need to know the steps involved in setting up and conducting your evaluation.
3. Research and survey design
Within any evaluation, data needs to be collected. There are a range of ways to do this, including qualitative and quantitative methods, or a combination of both. You need to know how to choose the right method. If you intend to conduct a survey you will need to know the principles of good survey design, who to talk to, and how to ask the right questions. You will need to understand principles around sampling and sample sizes.
4. Making sense of results
An evaluation is only worth conducting if the results will be used to make important decisions. You need to know how to conduct synthesis and analysis and how to communicate findings to decision makers, service providers, other stakeholders and your community.
If you work on evaluation at local government level and would like to be guided through my practical 8 step process, that incorporates these four points and more, please come to my evaluation school! Find our more, or enrol here.
Or, please get in touch if you need other evaluation support.