TASK 5: Use Evaluation Results to Sustain Your Groups Work

Evaluation plays a central role in sustaining your group’s work. Evaluation enables you to take key pieces of data and analyze and organize them so that you have accurate, usable information. This process facilitates the development of the best plan possible for the community and allows your group to accurately share its story and results with key stakeholders. It also can help you track and understand community trends that may have an impact on your group’s ability to sustain its work.

A good evaluation monitors progress and provides regular feedback so that your strategic plan can be adjusted and improved. Your group may implement a variety of activities aimed at changing community systems and environments. By tracking information related to these activities and their effectiveness, as well as stakeholder feedback, community changes, and substance misuse and abuse outcomes, you can build a regular feedback loop for monitoring your progress and results. With this information, you can quickly see which strategies and activities have a greater impact than others, determine areas of overlap, and find ways to improve your group’s functioning. Using information from the evaluation, your group can adjust its strategic plan and continually improve its ability not only to sustain its work, but also to achieve community-wide reductions in substance misuse and abuse and its consequences.

Sharing your evaluation results can stimulate support from funders, community leaders, and others in the community. The best way to ensure the use of your data is to communicate your findings in ways that meet the needs of your various stakeholders. Consider the following:

  • Presentation. Think about how your findings are reported, including layout, readability, and user-friendliness, and who will present the information.
  • Timing. If a report is needed for the legislative session but is not ready in time, the chances of the data being used drop dramatically.
  • Relevance. If the evaluation design is logically linked to the purpose and outcomes of the project, the findings are far more likely to be put to use.
  • Quality. This will influence whether your findings are taken seriously.
  • Post-evaluation TA. Questions of interpretation will arise over time, and people will be more likely to use the results if they can get their questions answered after the findings have been reported.

Evaluations are always read within a particular political context or climate. Some evaluation results will get used because of political support, while others may not be widely promoted due to political pressure. Other factors, such as the size of your organization or program, may matter as well. Sometimes larger programs get more press; sometimes targeted programs do.

It is also important to consider competing information: Do results from similar programs confirm or conflict with your results? What other topics may be competing for attention? It is helpful to develop a plan for disseminating your evaluation findings, taking these types of questions into consideration.

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