I've learned that building capacity to use evaluation does not depend on having a lot of fancy bells and whistles. My experiences in the reporting stage of evaluation work with youth-serving organizations have taught me that successful use of evaluation has little to do with slick reports and branded slide presentations. It is more about the right people coming together to roll up their sleeves around the findings and lessons.
Others in the evaluation field have done some thinking about this and are sharing their experiences on evaluation use. Boris Volkov and Jean King provide a capacity-building checklist for those planning evaluations. Their checklist suggests that one of the first places to start to ensure that evaluations get used is at the top of the list -- It is critical that organizational leaders share responsibility for building the organizational "muscle" to use evaluation effectively.
Mary Arnold, an evaluator for Extension and 4-H in Oregon, recommends a four-part framework for building the capacity of Extension educators who work in youth development to use and lead evaluation in youth programs. By starting small with teaching the use of logic models and growing toward large-scale, multi-site evaluation projects, Arnold reports evidence of success in her unit's increased capacity to use, and learn from, evaluation.
Few things worth having come without some elbow grease. We can do it! What does it take for you to be engaged in an evaluation project or process? What do we need to do so that evaluation gets USED in youth organizations?
-- Pamela Larson Nippolt, associate Extension professor and program leader, program evaluation
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