Planning a program evaluation: A practical checklist

Program evaluation planning template

Let’s be honest, program evaluations are not always on the top of the list of an organisation’s spending. We are all familiar with the common scenario where an evaluation is not conducted until late in the project, when the funding agency is motivated by the need for hard ‘evidence’ on which to base decisions about the future of the program. In addition, evaluations are often viewed as a mere ‘tick in the box’ exercise and as such, a necessary evil. As a result, these political, budget, time and data limitations significantly affect the extent to which the value of a program’s effort can be assessed.

Nevertheless, in a results-oriented environment, evaluations are critical in contributing to accountable governance and performance management of the public service and provide an indispensable tool to inform fiscal strategy and policy development. Early and effective planning through making a series of methodical steps and decisions will ensure that the evaluation produces valuable and useful information. It also brings clarity and agreement on the objectives and scope of the evaluation, which in return can help to avoid many headaches associated with haphazard implementation.

But a program evaluation does not have to be an insurmountable task. We have included the checklist below to help you navigate your way through the planning of an evaluation. The checklist summarises and organises the steps and various aspects that should be considered when establishing a sound and structured program evaluation.