Evaluation is about asking good, critical questions to help us learn and be accountable. Identifying “good” questions is an important aspect of creating useful evaluations.
- What is important to measure?
- What will you spend time and resources on?
Often an evaluation takes on a life of its own. We think we need more and more data. But you can’t and won’t measure everything. You should keep the evaluation focused and as simple as possible. Answering a few questions well is better than answering many questions poorly. Otherwise, you run the risk of trying to do too much and end up with not very useful information or with many confounding variables.
- What we decide to measure depends on time, money, and expertise.
- What we decide to measure depends on who will use the results and for what purpose.
Remember that evaluation must fit the program and its stage of development. For example:
- It may be inappropriate to measure behavioral change when the program only consists of a single workshop or limited media effort; or to measure nutrition practices of the elderly when your program only reached seniors living in one apartment complex.
- It may be inappropriate to measure social norm change in the first year of a multiyear effort.
Because these issues are a critical part of evaluation, we will discuss them in greater detail in the following pages.