Whether the scope is large or small, evaluation projects usually follow the same basic steps. The following are some tools the Improve Group created, as well as one we’ve used from UCLA Academic Technology Services that could assist you at each of these steps. Step One, determine the evaluation’s purpose. What questions are you trying to answer? Who gains from the evaluation? What will you do with the results? Generally, evaluations can be designed for accountability, program improvement, staff learning, or to advance the field in which you operate. You can find a summary of different types of evaluation work here. Step Two, plan the evaluation methods – how you are going to answer the questions you have? There are dozens of methods, each appropriate to different situations. The key things to think about are your needs and those of your respondents. For your needs, consider what method can best capture the information you want, what you feel equipped to track and analyze, and how much time and money you can put into gathering information. For your respondents, consider how busy they are, how they best like to interact with you, and what sort of technology they can access. You can find a summary of various evaluation methods here. Step Three, gather and track data. There are dozens of ways to gather data, from surveys, to interviews or focus groups, to observations, to art projects and storytelling. While you’ll probably spend more time doing the actual gathering, efficient tracking and storage of your data can save you precious time down the road. There is a good list of tips for managing data here. Finally, analyze your data. The UCLA link above has many suggestions for different calculations you’ll make. However, the calculations only get you partway there – you also need to interpret data so that it can be used for the purpose you planned. Ideally, interpretation is a shared activity – you can engage others in helping you determine what action or message you should glean from your findings. Some ideas for bringing people together to interpret data – and benefit your organization, are here. These steps along with their resources should provide a foundation to begin your evaluation project.  If you need outside help, the Improve Group works with programs and organizations of any size.  Please feel free to contact us at info@theimprovegroup.com.

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