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Making Social Programs Work - White Paper

24 March 2011 at 12:06 pm
Staff Reporter
A US Not for Profit White Paper proposes a comprehensive and bold re-thinking of how organisations are evaluated.

Staff Reporter | 24 March 2011 at 12:06 pm


Making Social Programs Work - White Paper
24 March 2011 at 12:06 pm

A US Not for Profit White Paper proposes a comprehensive and bold re-thinking of how organisations are evaluated.

The paper rejects what it describes as a rigid, one-size-fits-all model that focuses narrowly on determining a program's success or failure.

The paper, Priorities for a New Decade, proposes an approach that fully engages Not for Profit practitioners as partners in evaluation efforts.

It says the approach reflects a deep understanding of local circumstances and constraints, and suggests guidelines for evaluation and scaling that support on-the-ground program quality and performance.

The White paper comes from Public Private Ventures (P/PV) – a Not for Profit organisation that works to improve the lives of children, youth and families in high-poverty communities by designing, evaluating and replicating social programs in the US.

The paper says that despite increased pressure to report on outcomes, most Not for Profit organisations do not have the resources to collect and analyze data in ways that could help them boost their performance.

It says evaluation is often something that is done to programs by funders who hire external evaluators yet many evaluations fail to yield information that is of immediate, practical value to programs, including information about how the program could be spread to new settings.

It says funders themselves (both public and private) are not consistently asking for the right kind of evidence, at the right time, or for the right programs.

The paper says there is a very real risk that the current evidence-based trend will quash organisations whose work has not yet been or cannot be conveniently evaluated – too many innovations happening at the program level still go unnoticed by researchers, funders and policymakers.

It says change must happen through the leadership of skilled practitioners who make sound use of evaluative information to test and improve programs and share their experience—which in turn can inform and shape relevant policies.

It says organisations need to recognise the role of motivated program leaders at the centre of evaluation efforts, to ensure that these efforts advance program theory and practice, rather than merely fulfilling a funder request.

It concludes that partnership on the ground between practitioners and evaluators, along with the long-term support of committed public and private funders, is indispensable if the goal is to deliver evaluations that actually improve program quality and effectiveness.

The paper says reaching that goal will require at least two major steps:

The field needs clearer guidelines on how evaluation can meet the particular needs and contexts of different kinds of programs, and individual organisations should have the chance to demonstrate that they will use evaluative information for program improvement, if afforded the opportunity to do so.

Download the White Paper at

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