Program planning and evaluation are synonymous when creating human service programs. To achieve success one cannot exist without the other. Program planning is the development that helps to determine program goals and the availability of resources needed to achieve set goals. It answers who, what, and why questions related to what benefits and services the programs will provide. Can the organization respond to the societal needs? What will the organization provide and who will it benefit? Will the services make a difference? What are the availability of resources to support this organization in order for it to succeed?
The planning stage sets priorities. It determines what is of the utmost importance, how much time and money will be spent, and sets expectations for the staff and program as a whole. The focus of the planning stage is how the organizations product will be developed and delivered. It is the key to an effective program and its outcome. The first step in program planning is conducting a needs assessment. This process addresses societal needs, helps to determine goals and priorities, and will reveal any unmet needs the program may want to address. The ability to identify available resources is the next step.
Will there be enough support to address these needs and just how much will the organization have to work with to establish the program. Based on the unmet needs, defining objectives will help decide what the working parts (activities) of the organization will be, what is the projected outcome and who will it impact. The designing of the program sets goals, defines objectives and lays out methods of delivery. The evaluation of each of these steps throughout the entire process is crucial to assure a successful end result. Program evaluation is used for many reasons.
In relation to human service programs, it is used to review how effective the program is during planning stages as well as its progress throughout its growth. Evaluation is used to review goals, challenges, budget, clients, and outcomes. It allows organizations to improve on delivery of its services and see how their program or organization compares to other agencies that provide similar services. Depending on the topic of the evaluation, the information gathered will come from staff, clients, agency documentation and managers who oversee various departments.
Most importantly an evaluation provides feedback to promote further learning and improvement. Depending on the time and reason, and information gathered for the evaluation, there are numerous individuals that will benefit from the evaluation process. People that may view this information will range from clients, to the board of directors and those that fund said programs. After reviewing the information for PEACE, a plan for a domestic violence agency, the planning stages for this organization must start with a needs assessment and evaluation of the community the agency will serve.
It must be determined how many individuals this unfortunate situation effects and the ages of those individuals. Are there similar agencies in the area? What programs are being offered, and how will our program make a difference? Since many people are not openly willing to discuss abuse, we can conduct our evaluation through questionnaires in the hopes of gaining better feedback. Reports from local law enforcement will also be helpful to see how much time and man power is being consumed by issues related to domestic violence.
Collecting all of this information is vital in making decisions for the growth of the program. This planning and evaluation process includes various activities, which will decide the critical success factors of a program, some of them are needs assessments, cost/benefit analysis, effectiveness study, goal analysis, and outcome. All these analyses are based on how accurately the information is collected, and understanding how the data that is related to our program. A number of parties will review and benefit from the use of program evaluation reports such as management teams, and grant organizations.
During the program planning and evaluation phase an organization may encounter technical and political aspects that will impact that start up and growth of the program. On the political side of the coin, in order to gain power and resources agencies want evaluation results that will provide results justifying their legitimacy and need to exist. This can lead to using their political influence to “guide” the evaluation to present or not to present the “selected” truth. (Yuen/Terao, 2003) In order for any program to succeed there must be a considerable amount of time put into program planning and evaluation.
Yuen/Terao. (2003). Practical Grant Writing and Program Evaluation. Brooks/Cole.