Each week we contribute tips to the ether of innovation in the Human Services and Education Sectors

Do It Yourself (DIY) Assessment for Programs 

Introduction

“Do It Yourself” (DIY): Assessment activities can be headed by your staff team. We recommend that the staff team who is tasked with leading program assessment review several examples of program-based assessment that reflect or mirror their specific program. For example, the Urban Institute has an extensive list of 14 assessment plans that map-out outcomes, indicators, and so on. If those examples don’t match your program, check-out handbooks like this one from the University of Connecticut.

DIY It (but don’t let yourself get frustrated)

Ultimately, the success of your organization’s DIY efforts should be balanced between the current research skill-set that your staff team has (because program assessment is a form of internal research) and a small amount of funds that your org may have to hire an assessment specialist to contribute in a minor way (e.g. identify three to four examples of assessment plans that do mirror your current program).

 

The Fun of DIY (yes fun even in the non-profit sector)

The staff team who is heading program assessment can have a great time mixing and matching aspects of potential assessment plans (either identified by the group or presented by an assessment specialist). The strategy of using what already exists ensures that your organization doesn’t use time on “recreating the wheel”; backs-up its assessment decisions with models already proven significant; and provides the opportunity for staff to develop additional skill-sets (e.g. how to align outcomes, indicators, measurements, etc.).

Why Engage in Program Assessment?

  1. Get clarity on the strengths of your program and how precisely the program is showing those strengths.
  2. Drive decisions based on that clarity… decisions about programming, funding, organizational priorities, etc.
  3. Direct the future of your program by reporting data with greater ease, addressing any weaknesses that may be there, and modeling to like orgs how to prioritize assessment.

DIY First Benchmark

Once your staff team has finalized an assessment plan that matches their program, there may be issues that arise. For example, it’s common for an org to need to collect specific data points, but the org might not currently collect those data points. This is where an assessment specialist, as an outsider, can join your team for a short meeting to recommend several different ways to collect those data points that uses the program’s current technologies.

Ultimately, a home-grown assessment plan for your program, based on this DIY approach, can deliver on so many wonderful things for your org. Here is an example of a program assessment plan that I headed in collaboration with a staff team. (The staff team has the skill-set to do the design, analysis, and reporting, but also has the funds to hire a specialist. In this case, the staff team is involved in the intricacies of program assessment in order to reap the benefits of the cumulative gain from engaging in all phases of design, analysis, and reporting.):

EXAMPLE

DIY Second Benchmark

The staff team can make the assessment activities manageable by focusing on one indicator until is has been fully explored. Use these actions for the exploration of each indicator:

  1. Engage in meaningful conversations about what the data is showing about the indicator.
  2. Celebrate successes that are shown in the collected data about the indicator under exploration.
  3. Develop an action plan for addressing any program components that are shown to be in need of attention.

We love to hear about examples and experiments that you’re undertaking to engage in DIY Assessment. Please share them with us at [email protected]

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Weekly Assessment Tips: a Vlog that supports assessment in the Human Services and Education Sectors