This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at evalacademy.com.
Every evaluation project, from small to large scale, has similar processes or phases. There is the initiation stage, followed by planning, data collection, analysis, reporting, and project-close-out phases. I find the planning stage the most exciting and challenging since it requires quick learning of the program and attention to detail.
At the planning stage, there are multiple meetings with the program team to decide on the evaluation approach, timelines, and goals. Although it is impossible to have a meeting agenda template that works for every meeting, I have an Evaluation Kick-off Meeting Agenda Template that I often use at the start of a new evaluation project.
1. Introductions and role clarity
The first thing on my agenda is introductions of the program and evaluation team members. Knowing the program team members who will participate in the evaluation will help ensure the involvement of the appropriate team members from the start.
Similarly, knowing the roles of the evaluation team members will save the program team time and energy when trying to get evaluation information. It is also a good idea to include a brief ice-breaker activity to help meeting attendees relax and ease into the work.
2. Program Goals
The purpose of a program provides the direction for the program. In addition, the program purpose and goals are the foundation upon which other program elements are defined, including the evaluation. It is, therefore, essential that the evaluation team understands the program’s purpose, goals, and objectives.
The evaluation team will have other opportunities to examine in detail the program’s objectives, such as during logic model or theory of change activities, however understanding the broader goal, the evidence, philosophy and/or rationale behind it helps brainstorm evaluation approaches.
3. Evaluation Goals
A big challenge at the planning phase is undefined evaluation goals. Sometimes the program team members don’t know what exactly they want from the evaluation, or they can’t agree. When the goals aren’t clear, it’s difficult to manage the project.
Scoping the evaluation, i.e., having an open discussion about the purpose of the evaluation and how the program team plans to use the evaluation results, will help tailor the evaluation design and deliverables.
4. Communication and information exchange
Lack of communication or miscommunication can be a challenge in evaluation. Although it is likely unnecessary to prepare a communication strategy for a small to medium scale evaluation project, it is still important to identify key approaches such as:
designated contact person for both the program and evaluation
preferred way to reach the program contacts
format and recipients of status updates
availability of team members and preferred timeline for meetings/activities
data exchange (e.g., set up a shared drive/ Teams channel, etc.)
5. Evaluation Timelines
Poor evaluation scheduling is also a common challenge in evaluation. Not allocating sufficient time for planning may result in evaluation methodology that is not suitable for the program.
Similarly, insufficient time for data collection, analysis, or reporting can lead to bias, error, poor quality, and disappointment in the deliverables. Although it may not be possible to identify the timeline for each evaluation activity at this stage, important program events and high-level evaluation timelines should be discussed.
In conclusion, effective start to program evaluation will make the work more efficient and easier. Project management in evaluation requires diligence, and simplifying the process makes it easier to plan and execute.
We are passionate about starting an evaluation right! Check out our other article HOW TO KICK OFF YOUR EVALUATION KICK OFF MEETING.
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