We always recommend an evaluation protocol to our clients, usually in the form of enlisting the help of an independent external evaluator. Why? Every funding opportunity comes with reporting requirements and these take time and effort to produce. The project team will likely have more than enough on their plate handling program activities, making it unreasonable to expect them to find the extra time to collect and analyze data and perform an evaluation or complete one or more detailed outcome reports. This process will be much easier, more efficient, and likely more accurate if outsourced to an evaluator. Evaluation is always a good idea. The simple reason for this is it provides a way to measure your results. first discussed this topic in 2014 (https://www.ebhoward.com/evaluate/). We initially covered the topic with a slideshare but we feel there is much more to say about the topic.
Evaluation is important in any business or project but is especially important in research projects. In order to accurately provide evidence of research findings, it is critical to have accurately collected data, measurable objectives, milestones, and indicators of success. An evaluation program will set all these parameters and collect and record the data to be analyzed in order to create the final report.
Sometimes evaluation is mandatory
In the case of many federally funded grants, especially Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, an external independent evaluator is a mandate for participation in the program. In this case, it is not only preferable to evaluate but required by the program. Programs create this rule to ensure proper measurement of the results and the project and to protect their investments.
Evaluation is also vital in any education-related project or research. In order to see if an intervention works, it must be properly measured and parameters must be set for success. As project coordinators are often too busy with project activities to provide evaluation services for their own project, they often hire an external independent evaluator to take care of these services.
Foundation and foundation-funded projects often serve a broader societal need or seek to solve large often intangible human problems. Incremental improvements to these problems are the goal, but these improvements are very hard to measure. Evaluation makes measuring the outcomes of such projects more feasible by measuring variables and changes. Without evaluation, it would be very difficult to determine if these types of programs were working to solve the issue and if they were creating a fiscal or societal return on investments.
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