The "E" Word

Evaluation – what does that word bring up for you?  I admit – that has been a scary word for me.  I worked in local anti-violence programs for 7 years before coming to the NSVRC.  I remember evaluation being this obscure, time-consuming thing.  We handed out surveys to prevention program participants and those receiving counseling and advocacy services.  Even small children would receive a piece of paper with happy and sad faces and they would respond to our evaluation questions by circling the appropriate face (you know what I’m talking about – I’ve seen these STILL making the rounds!).  These surveys were then stuffed away in a filing cabinet, never to be seen again save the few times a funder would visit and want to see where we kept our “data”.  But we never really did anything with that data.  And now that I think about it, was there really any useful data to be found in all of those surveys?

As programs are being asked to think more and more about evaluating the impact of their prevention programs, it has led us as technical assistance providers to really think about evaluation in new ways.  At the NSVRC, we are working to increase our own capacity around evaluation.  We are currently doing some internal evaluation work – learning about evaluation theory (a lot more interesting than it probably sounds), creating logic models (this was a big hurdle for me as I used to find nothing logical about logic models…I am learning to like them!), exploring new ways to collect data (we still love our surveys, but focus groups and interviews are much more fun).  As we work over the next year to put some of the things we are learning into practice, we will be happily sharing what we learn with you.  In case you missed it, we released an online learning course on evaluation in January. This is a great “evaluation 101” course.  We’ll have some follow-up courses on data analysis coming out in 2014.  We are also working to develop an evaluation toolkit over the next 12-24 months, so stay tuned for more info about that!  The great thing about all of this is that the “E” word is becoming less and less intimidating for many of us.

 In the meantime, we are excited to learn what programs are doing to evaluate their prevention programs and what some of the needs are.  Please share with us by commenting below.