What you need to know when designing a new program

If you have been tasked with designing a new program, there are probably a million thoughts and details running through your head. You’re also likely to have competing priorities, such as:

  • Internally there may be a range of organisational paperwork that needs to be completed (but that doesn’t actually look that helpful to you).
  • Your boss has already made promises of doing this, or doing that, as part of establishing the program which it’s now up to you to deliver on.
  • There are vocal external stakeholders putting the pressure on.

And to top it all off, the drop dead date to get this program started is looming. It’s no wonder your head is spinning and that your finding it hard to focus and prioritise what should come first.

Take a deep breath. Running through each of the items below will help to ensure you are not only prepared to launch your program but also that it’s both evidence based and better practice.

Let’s get started!

Your target group’s needs

A well designed program is always focussed on meeting its target group’s needs.

The more you define and understand your target group, the better you’ll be able to hone in on the factors that will allow the program outcomes to be realised.

There are lots of sources of information and approaches that you can use to better understand your target group. You can gather information from existing sources such as data.gov.au and/or do your own primary research and data gathering through surveys, focus groups or representative committees.

It’s probably been done before

In most instances there will be examples of similar programs that have been delivered before. Reassuring, isn’t it?

Seeking out information about how it has previously been done and the outcomes achieved will help you to identify different program delivery models that could work (or not work) for your program. Make sure you identify and compare the benefits, costs and risks of each and pay attention to contextual differences which could impact on delivery and outcomes.

Who else is playing in this space right now?

While you are researching what has previously been done, also look to canvas who else is playing in this space right now and the scope of what they are doing.

Look to deliver complementary services rather than duplicating existing programs. This will give you the biggest bang for buck.

Clear and realistic outcomes

Take the time to articulate the program’s outcomes and identify the way you are going to move from the current state to the outcome state. Working through this activity with others will help to get everyone on the same page and to troubleshoot any problem areas before you get into program delivery.

It is a great way to test and challenge assumptions, identify external influences on the program and start to establish a timeframe for achieving the different outcome stages.

One way of documenting the outcomes is within a program logic.

How you’ll measure success

Before delivery starts put some thought into how you’ll know if your program is working. It’s better practice to establish a monitoring and evaluation framework and set up your data collection and reporting before the program commences. This will allow you to track performance and adjust program delivery to optimise the program in a much more responsive manner and make you look like a rock star!

If you do all of the above, you’ll have all of the parts of the puzzle you need to develop the program design in a robust and defensible way that will get program delivery off to a great start.