Eva the Evaluator

Based on the book Eva the Evaluator by Roger Miranda, Wendy Tackett’s enactment helps Eva understand all the different roles that an evaluator might take on in an evaluation project. This light-hearted video and the book in which it is based on demystify the complex work of evaluation.

design programs

Defining a Program

What makes a program a program?

A recent webinar led by Boris Volkov hosted by AEA’s Organizational Learning & Evaluation Capacity Building Topic Interest Group gave me pause to think about important qualities of a program.  His talk titled From Purist to Pragmatist: Expanding Our Approaches to Building Evaluation Capacity opened with a shared definition of program, evaluation, and program evaluation. He used the CDC (2011) definition that states:

A program is any set of organized activities supported by a set of resources to achieve a specific and intended result (p. 3)

Inherent in this rather broad definition are three important moving parts:

  1. Set of resources (inputs)
  2. Set of organized activities (activities described by outputs)
  3. Specific and intended result (outcomes and impacts)

Each of these provide parameters that define and focus a program and its evaluation. Yet, embedded in the definition are the qualifiers- organized, specific, and intended. Activities must have some sort of underlying organization. Perhaps the activities are organized developmentally, sequenced by difficulty, or arranged in some manner as a result of previous research. Results must be specific and intended. That is, there is a desired end that can be clearly articulated so as to justify the means.

A program exists when the qualifiers (organized, specific, and intended) are understood and there is a logical relationship between resources, activities, and outcomes. This logical arrangement is often described in a program’s logic model. Without understood qualifiers and an articulated logic, a program is not a program, but rather a loose set of activities.