Evaluations at Mid-Life


by Dennie Palmer Wolf

In an issue of GuildNotes, Dennie Palmer Wolf continues her article series on program evaluations with an investigation of their mid-life.

Imagine that you have successfully launched an evaluation of your program. You have a clear logic model that lays out your inputs, outputs, and outcomes. You have settled on how you will measure progress towards those outcomes. You have secured the agreements with your partners and permissions from participants. You have even raised the dollars to pay for the evaluation. The dream is that you flick the switch and the whole enterprise runs like silk and delivers you compelling findings. Only then….

  • The context for the evaluation changes radically
  • The findings are not what you anticipated, or
  • You realize you might not be looking at the right outcomes

These mid-life “crises” are part and parcel of many evaluations — particularly those that last a year or more. When they first occur, they are disconcerting, particularly since few final reports ever acknowledge them. This is too bad, because, depending on how an organization and its evaluation partners negotiate these events, they can be crises or be occasions for deepening the evaluation process.

Read the full piece here.


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