Planning for evaluation
We didn’t even know we could nerd out so excitedly about logic models, but we did. And we had a blast. In this project, our team worked alongside a local social service organization to help revise a logic model and to outline a basic evaluation approach for a grant application pitching an innovative program idea.
It was important that we had a deep understanding of the issue-area context (aging services), so we took some time to learn about other similar programs across the country and their approach to evaluation. This way, when we met with our partner (we prefer this language to client) we could make more progress moving their ideas for evaluation forward. Our meeting with a few key staff from the organization was very interactive and generative, and by the end of our meeting we had a draft direction for the logic model and final language for the grant proposal. Over the next week, our team worked collaboratively to finalize the logic model in time for our partner's grant deadline (which was ultimately funded). Here are a few reflections from the project:
We need to think more creatively about logic models. Principles of psychology and data visualization can guide us to re-imagine the basic logic model format. For our team, this meant we added more color (based on our partner’s brand colors) and played with a vertical vs. horizontal format.
We need to rethink the concept of logic models. Logic models serve a useful purpose in helping outline and organize the assumptions and theories behind a program design and anticipated impact. However, they are typically very linear models with rigid structures. We think the complex social and environmental issues that we’re dealing with can only be accurately captured with dynamic and non-linear models. Can we start using “concept map”- style diagrams with arrows moving in multiple directions? Can we make a live and evolving model by scheduling regular opportunities for feedback?
Evaluation works best from the beginning. We were very grateful that our partner brought us in at the time of writing their successful grant proposal. We’ve found much more success in establishing a culture of learning and improvement in program teams if we are able to work together from the outset. For many valid reasons, too often we see evaluation as an afterthought. Our team works to re-frame evaluation not as a method for proving what you want to see, but as a tool to establish opportunities for reflection and learning. Through this process we can most authentically gauge the real impact on the desired mission.
Please take a look at our blog for more information on our longer-term partnerships.