ESIP 2011 Winter Meeting Decisions Workshop

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Introduction to Evaluation Workshop

Ann Doucette, Director, The Evaluators' Institute, George Washington University

From Insight to Impact: Managing YOUR Data Through Evaluation

Sponsored by the Decisions Cluster, this workshop covers evaluation basics and GEO as a Case Study for how to improve the value of ESIP member activities through evaluation. Does not require previous experience with project evaluation

Interventions and programs are implemented within complex environments that present challenges in evaluating efficiency and effectiveness and attributing outcomes and impact to specific actions. A general problem in evaluation efforts — and what often causes them to fall short of their intended objectives — is the failure to fully articulate a theory of change that includes the identification of critical mechanisms that support optimal outcomes; to select measureable objectives that are actionable, meaning that they are linked to practices that an organization can actually do something about; to incorporate diverse stakeholders including end-users; to craft the evaluation in terms of its role in data-driven decision-making; and, lastly to effectively communicate the return on investment in terms of not only cost, but human and social capital.

This workshop will provide an interactive opportunity for participants to become more familiar with effective evaluation approaches that include a focus on crafting a theory of change that characterizes the outcome goal(s) and impact as well as identifying the mechanisms of change – moving from activity to results. Matching evaluation levels with the objectives to be achieved (e.g., linking gap analysis with theory of change, etc.) will be addressed, as well as optimizing the actionability of evaluation efforts. The workshop will examine performance measurement strategies that support actionable data. Data based decision-making, value-based issues, and practice-based evidence related to evaluation and monitoring (M & E) activities (process, outcome, and impact) will be emphasized. A case study approach, focusing on the work of the Group on Earth Observations will be used as an illustrative example of how members of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners can better use evaluation tools to achieve outcomes and to optimize the impact of their work.