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Six Steps to Program Planning and Evaluation

Program planning that includes evaluation can be broken down into the following six steps to help your organization stay on track for quality improvement.

Program planning that includes evaluation can be broken down into the following six steps to help your organization stay on track for quality improvement.

July 5, 2012

Program planning that includes evaluation is critical to measuring success and identifying areas for ongoing quality improvement. However, it is often the most difficult piece for health departments to implement successfully.

Breaking the process down to these six steps for program planning can help your organization get and stay on the right track for continuous quality improvement.

Step 1: Define your stakeholders

Your stakeholders are supporters, implementers, recipients, and decision-makers related to your program. Getting them involved early on will help you get different perspectives on the program and establish common expectations. This helps to clarify goals and objectives of your program, so everyone understands its purpose.

Step 2: Describe the program

Taking the time to articulate what your program does and what you want to accomplish is essential to establishing your evaluation plan. Your descriptions should answer questions like: What is the goal of our program? Which activities will we pursue to reach our goal? How will we do it? What are our resources? How many people do we expect to serve?

Evaluation Help

Following the steps to mastery takes work, not to mention practice and experienced coaching.

If you would like more training in these principles, the 2012 Summer Institute offers an intensive training course, Implementing Program Planning and Evaluation, from August 6–9.

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Articulating the answers to those questions will not only help with accountability and quality improvement, but it will also help you promote the program to its beneficiaries.

Step 3: Focus the design of your evaluation

As you begin formulating your evaluation, think about the specific purpose of the evaluation—what questions are you trying to answer? How will the information be used? What information-gathering methods will best get me what I need?

Evaluations can focus on process, means, resources, activities, and outputs. They can focus on outcomes or how well you achieved your goal. You may also choose to evaluate both process and outcomes.

Step 4: Gather evidence

Qualitative and quantitative data are the two main forms of data you may collect. Three commonly used methods used for gathering qualitative evaluation data are: key informant interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. Qualitative data offers descriptive information that may capture experience, behavior, opinion, value, feeling, knowledge, sensory response, or observable phenomena.

Quantitative methods refer to information that may be measured by numbers or tallies. Methods for collecting quantitative data include counting systems, surveys, and questionnaires.

Step 5: Draw conclusions

This is the step where you answer the bottom-line question: Are we getting better, getting worse, or staying the same? Data comparisons show trends, gaps, strengths, weaknesses. You can compare evaluation data with targets set for the program, against standards established by your stakeholders or funders, or make comparisons with other programs.

Step 6: Ensure use of information with a thoughtful presentation of findings

It is important that all the work you put into planning the program and creating the evaluation gets used for quality improvement. When you present your findings and recommendations, it is important to know the values, beliefs, and perceptions of your group; build on the group’s background and build on common ground; and state the underlying purpose for your recommendations before you get to the details.

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