Tools for planning program evaluation: Evaluation Framework

There are hundreds of tools you can use for program evaluation. We’re going to focus on one of the most common and useful: evaluation frameworks.

(And because nothing is ever simple in program evaluation, you might also hear these referred to as “monitoring and evaluation frameworks”, “reporting and improvement frameworks”, “learning frameworks” or a combination of all three!)

What is an evaluation framework?

Put simply, an evaluation framework is the overall approach to the evaluation of a program (or policy, system or organisation) over a period of time. It’s a macro picture of the program’s evaluation activities and is typically developed at the beginning of a program.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Revisit the program’s rationale

Confirming the rationale for the program with stakeholders ensures a common understanding and ensures you’re all working towards the same outcomes.

2. Identify measures for program performance

Ask yourself: “how will I know if the program has been a success?” For each relevant stage of your program’s evolution.

First identify what you can measure: documenting these expectations will help identify the information that you’ll need to gather at every stage.

Next, think about how you can measure: plan the data collection and reporting you’ll need at each stage.

3. Document your plan as soon as the program starts

In order to effectively measure the impact of your program, it’s important to plan your program evaluation from the outset. Considering questions such as ‘what will success look like in three years?’ and ‘how will I know the program is on track to achieve success?’ will help ensure your program is on track from the get-go.

4. Plan what you will measure and when

In order to plan when your program evaluation will happen, consider the key points when important decisions about the future of the program will be made. Refer to our earlier article to plan your timeframes effectively.

Next, identify the questions that will need to be asked to support those decisions: remembering that each evaluation project should focus on providing insight into a particular aspect or aspects of the program.