Asking the Right Questions
The best way to begin an evaluation plan is to ask yourself what you and the grantor hope to achieve or learn, then develop a process to identify and measure your success.
The following list of questions was developed for a long-term communityimprovement project involving public transportation. The agency recognized that it would take a number of years to see any meaningful changes taking place in the use of public transportation and the habits of people in the community. Nevertheless, the agency wanted to measure any small steps taken in that direction. To do it, the agency decided to conduct an annual evaluation.
Have we developed a shared vision statement for improving transportation that is accepted by the entire community? Is the statement applicable to all social, environmental, and economic issues?
What has been our work with existing community initiatives? Has there been progress in merging like initiatives, particularly those that are cross-cluster or cross-sector? Is participation in these initiatives increasing, and does participation reflect the community's diversity?
Are participants in events and meetings surrounding the project and its action teams diverse in age, opinion, ethnicity, income, gender, and residence?
Are problem-solving models and strategies readily available? Are they being requested? Used?
Have we collected and shared data? To what degree? What is missing?
What are the agreed-on measures of success? Are benchmarks available for all areas of agreement?
With what communities have we communicated to share information and lessons? What new connections among individuals, organizations, and/or sectors have grown from the project and its transportation action team?
Weigh both the grantor and grantee goals. Be sure to ask both questions: what your organization hopes to learn, and what the granting agent hopes to learn. Hopefully, they are the same. If not, blend the questions together to form the basis for your evaluation plan.