Addressing Program Evaluation Fears: Part 1

Sections of this topic

    Now that you:

    In this post, we will focus on addressing others’ fears about program evaluation. These “others” may include administrators, partners, program staff, and participants. As you know, such fears can be harder to address, and there is no cure-all. But consider using a suggestion or two from this list on ways to create a culture of evaluation. Vince Hyman, former publishing director of Fieldstone Alliance discusses the concept of evaluation culture in his article “Create a Culture of Evaluation.” The following is my commentary which applies this concept to my experiences of culture and program evaluation. I am a product of multiple cultures, having picked up various aspects of cultures at different stages in my life. In my experience, culture was most effortlessly instilled in earlier stages of life but it continues to be a gradual life-long process. Some of the aspects that differentiate cultures are language, practices, and ways of thinking. Let us apply this to evaluation by considering the following action steps that can help develop a culture of evaluation.

    Step 1: “Talk the Talk”—Teach the Language of Evaluation

    Familiarize yourself with or continue learning the language of evaluation by reading evaluation handbooks and blogs from credible sources. If you are too busy, aim for at least 5-10 minutes or a page a day. Then speak and patiently teach the language of evaluation, promoting the benefits of evaluation whenever possible. Take time to consider all those who may be resistant to evaluation: explain and define any unfamiliar evaluation-related terms, building on previous concepts and ideas that are more familiar to them.

    Step 2: “Walk the Walk”—Mentor and Role-model

    Mentor junior program staff. Role-model sound evaluation practices and explain evaluation logic or evaluation-related ways of thinking. This will help them in turn to adopt and promote the culture of program evaluation which will help foster sustained evaluation efforts. (I will be outlining evaluation models that promote sound evaluation practices soon). Staff and administrators’ nightmarish experiences with evaluation could very likely have been a result of poor evaluation practices.

    Step 3: “Birds of a Feather”–Collaborate with Like-minded Individuals and Organizations

    Ever notice how in general people of similar sub-cultures (whether based on ethnicity or shared values) tend to gravitate toward each other? An existing community helps to draw newcomers to the group as well. Do your best within reasonable limits to start by working with those who already possess an evaluation-related frame of mind. For health-related programs, an option might be to hire graduates of accredited community health education programs. This ensures a background in health program evaluation and increases the likelihood of shared evaluation-related goals and values. Nurture such collaborations, for they can in turn help draw others to participate in the culture of evaluation. Have you experienced any challenges or successes with addressing others’ fears about evaluation?

    Stay tuned for an important point in Part 2!


    Priya Small has extensive experience in collaborative evaluation planning, instrument design, data collection, grant writing, and facilitation. Contact her at See her profile at