Evaluation is the process of assessing your progress toward meeting your program’s goals. To ensure your program is successful, you should evaluate it regularly.
What Is Evaluation?
Program evaluation is a structured way of gathering information about your program’s performance. It shows you what’s working well and what needs improvement. Evaluation also helps you understand why certain parts of your program are working or not working.
- Goals — What is the purpose of your program? What did you intend to change by creating the program, and why do those changes matter? Goals can be difficult to measure, but determining whether you met the objectives you set during Step 2 of the LTSS Roadmap is a good place to start. You can also look at actions, inputs, and results to see if you accomplished your goals.
- Examples: the activities you planned have been completed within the timeframe that you planned for; the results of your activities match what you expected
- Actions — What did people in your project do?
- Examples: Saw patients, provided services, planned tasks, or trained others
- Inputs — What resources did you put into your project?
- Examples: Time, money, equipment, partnerships
- Results — What happened because of your program's inputs and actions?
- Examples: Patients received care, more people enrolled in Medicaid, patients had fewer hospital readmissions
What are best practices for tribal communities?
When community members are part of program evaluation efforts, they are more likely to trust the process and the results. Involving the community also ensures your evaluation collects information they will value and use. Your community can help you determine:
- What kinds of question to ask
- Which questions are the most important
- How to plan an effective evaluation
- How to gather information
- How to interpret and share the information you find
Indigenous ways of knowing, such as sharing data through storytelling and focusing on strengths instead of problems, often work well for evaluations done by tribal communities. Tribal leaders and elders should be involved. If you hire an evaluation expert to help, talk to the consultant to make sure they will include your community in the process and honor community values.
See Step 1 of the planning roadmap for help identifying who your stakeholders are and who should be involved in the evaluation.
Who should conduct the evaluation?
Tribes have the knowledge and skills to perform their own evaluations. The process of evaluation simply means asking the questions that you and your program's stakeholders are already thinking about, and then gathering answers in an organized way. Questions may include:
- How is our program doing?
- What is working well?
- What can be improved? How can it be improved?
- How many people has our program served?
- Does the community need more services beyond what we offer?
Some tribes choose to get evaluation help from an expert researcher. If your program could benefit from expert assistance, think about working with:
- Researchers within your organization or tribe
- A tribal college or university or a nearby community college
- National Resource Center on Native American Aging
Learn more about program evaluation, including steps for conducting an evaluation.