query: program evaluation

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Mon Jan 26 21:10:24 CST 2004

[ed:  thanks to John and Amy for responding to Margaret's query.]

From: beam at fordham.edu

How different organizations view the need for evaluations differs from 
group to group. When the evaluation is mandated by a funder, groups 
often address it at the minimum level of accuracy and thoroughness 
required to satisfy the funder. There is a longer discussion to be had 
about what funders could do to promote evaluations that are useful to 
their grantees and also about why more organizations don't engage in 
internal evaluations...a process that would often be unrelated to the 
current requirements of external funders.  

However, there is an unrelated arguement for why Margaret should 
take the course, assuming it is any good: Many of the quantitative skills 
that will be presented as evaluation tools are also useful for both 
offensive and defensvie policy analysis that can support the organizing 
agenda of grassroots organizations. Nowadays, community 
organizations take on issues that require a serious grasp of the data 
and the fine print (e.g., education reform, redlining and predatory 
lending) to help them use their political muscle most effectively. 
 Whether or not it increases your marketability as an organizer, it 
will increase your value to the organization smart enough to value your 
enhanced skill set.  

John M. Beam

National Center for Schools and Communities

Fordham University


From: Amy Hubbard <ahubbarddc at yahoo.com>

I would recommend taking this course for several

1)I argue that it's important to be flexible about
methods.  There are many problems with survey research
and quantitative analysis but there are times when it
it's useful, e.g., when trying to find out information
from a lot of people across the country and you can't
interview every one of them.

2)Some of the organizations you may end up working for
will believe that it's important to hire someone who
can do this.  You will want to argue that *they* be
flexible about their choice of methods and convince
them to use qualitative methods but it's useful to be
able to do this from a position of being knowledgeable
about quant methods.  (And you have to get hired

3)Knowing quant methods will put you in a position
where you can effectively critique evaluation that has
been done that way.

4) You don't know where your career path will take you
and being able to do quant work may help you get a job
you really want someday.  I'm very strong in
qualitative research and a great believer in it but I
studied and continue to study statistics and survey
research and it has help keep me employed through
rough times in my career.  The sad fact is that many
professionals continue to believe that anyone can do
qualitative work (SOOO WRONG)but that they need a
specially-trained expert to do quant work.  (And the
want ads in the Washington Post anyway rarely ask for
someone whose specialty is qualitative methods.)

I believe that by getting good training in both you'll
be in a position to give solid advice to the groups
you work with about the most appropriate method. 
Please consider taking the course with a critical eye.
 Learn the standards of the field but be able to
critique them.

Good luck!
Amy Hubbard

> From: Margaret Mount <blackbeans at gofairtrade.net>
> Hello, I have just signed up for this list serve and look forward
> to the e- mails and information I will be receiving. I do already
> have a question for you all. I am currently finishing up my MSW
> degre and plan to pursue a career in organizing when I finish. My
> advisor is recommending that I take a course in Social Service
> Program Evaluation. Basically, it will involve a great deal of
> quantitative research including surveys and statistics to
> evaluate the effectiveness of these programs. If it would really
> help the community organizations that I work for in the future, I
> would be willing to put myself through the class, but I sincerely
> have my doubts about how much it will relate to the sorts of
> evaluations that organizers are involved in.  If anyone could
> give me any advice about this, I would so appreciate it. Thank
> you and I look forward to your responses.  
> _______________________________________________
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