What does Utilization-Focused Evaluation really mean?
A non-evaluator’s blog about reading the 667 page book, Utilization-Focused Evaluation by Michael Quinn Patton (MQP).
A little about me… I am the office manager at Ciurczak & Company, Inc., a small evaluation firm in Buffalo, NY. After working here for three years, I finally broke down and decided to gain a better understanding of evaluation. In the past, I have read books such as Eva the Evaluator by Roger Miranda, and today, I would say I have a very basic understanding of evaluation. Really, it’s hard not to, being surrounded by evaluators all day long! One thing I learned is that they (evaluators) seem to like what they do A LOT, so much so, that even on lunch or after work, they are thinking about improving themselves and how to help the organizations they work with.
I recently delved into the book Utilization-Focused Evaluation (UFE), a book that informs every evaluation we do here at Ciurczak. Then, I decided to write this blog as an exploration from my perspective, my socialite, conversationalist, blond, city dwelling, gardening, fairly average, office manager perspective. I will do several posts over the next few months to share what I am learning by reading UFE.
Some of you may have heard about evaluation, some of you may have heard of the questions evaluators try to ask and answer, and some of you may be lost in the dark. I am venturing into UFE, and sharing from the non-evaluation perspective what this all means for you, the user.
Today, we will focus on the first two words in the title of the book (Yes, we are travelling that slowly. This book contains a lot of great stuff).
Ok, lets get to it. Utilization-focused is the approach to evaluation in which the evaluator becomes a partner in the project, partner being someone who is invested in the user’s program, with the intention of providing data analysis and information that program people can use (take a large breath here).
That is the keyword, “use.”
Here are some (really just a few) ways you, program people, can USE data:
- to support grant writing opportunities;
- to increase effectiveness of a program;
- to get an informed perspective on how your program is running;
- to better meet the needs of those you serve;
- to ensure compliance with regulations, such as:
- grant requirements,
- state or federal government requirements,
- protection of human subject requirements.
Doesn’t that all sound great? A good utilization-focused evaluator should say to a client something like, “Tell me about an evaluation that has been useful to you, useful being meaningful, helpful, and action oriented.” She then listens to your answer and uses this information to make the evaluation user-friendly and meaningful for you and other stakeholders.
Keep an eye out for part 2, ‘What does Utilization-Focused Evaluation really mean?’