The Evaluation Revolution
By: Sonya Dublin
Evaluators will tell you that until the 1980s, funders in the social services rarely asked for data about program performance. Grant applications were submitted, money was given out, and programs were implemented. Sounds nice, right? Starting in the 1980s, increasing focus on government accountability led to an upsurge of social program evaluation. Evaluators looked to the business sector for guidance, where evaluation concepts such as performance indicators and quality assurance were already the norm.
But measuring social outcomes such as empowerment, stigma, and health turned out to be more complex than measuring production and sales. Evaluation processes snowballed into pre-tests and post-tests, lengthy forms, multiple databases, and piles of progress reports. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the key to effective evaluation in the business sector - integration, in real time, into daily decision making processes.
Enter the Evaluation Revolution.
We are currently seeing a major shift in the field of evaluation: away from a focus on evaluation in order to report to funders, and towards more meaningful organizational learning. New approaches such as Utilization Focused Evaluation, Data Visualization, Data Dashboards and Participatory Evaluation are re-defining the value of evaluation in terms of how it is shared and used. This is the Evaluation Revolution: a movement to simplify, integrate, and better use evaluation in order to produce meaningful program improvements.
Even funders and government programs are now responding to this movement. The CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP) recently unveiled their newest evaluation system; changes included reduction of required data collection, revamping of online reporting systems, and improved ability for organizations to use their own data.
We at Capacity for Health are excited to be activists in the Evaluation Revolution. Please join us and learn more about revolutionizing your evaluation activities; simplifying, integrating, and better using evaluation to improve your programs.
Are you ready for the Revolution?
Further resources about effective evaluation can be found in our Online Resource Library where we have online trainings, information sheets, recorded webinars, and links to other materials. Feel free to contact us if you would like individualized Capacity Building Assistance.
A Shifting Healthcare Environment
By: Jacob Smith Yang
Many in the health care community were relieved—even elated—with the news that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28th. The law will create coverage for up to 32 million Americans in the coming years and hold great potential to address the inequities vulnerable populations and communities of color have experienced for too long.
This is undoubtedly one of the largest expansions of health care our nation has ever seen, since the signing of the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the 1960s. “By expanding coverage and banning the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, many thousands more people will have access to essential HIV prevention and treatment services,” remarked amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) CEO Kevin Robert Frost. Additionally, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, unveiled in 2010, calls for expanded access to treatment for people living with HIV and broader delivery of prevention and testing services to those who are especially vulnerable to HIV infection. But as APIAHF’s President and CEO, Kathy Lim Ko points out, “Now comes the hard part of implementing many of the laws most significant provisions – including ensuring that all communities understand the law’s many benefits and working with states to expand Medicaid eligibility for their most vulnerable.” We are in the midst of momentous structural changes to the health care system, but operating in an environment of ongoing budget shortfalls and erosion of the key health care infrastructure.
In the short term, this means many in the HIV/AIDS community have had to scramble and push to make sure the needs of people living with HIV/AIDs (PLWHA) continue to be met. Over the years, networks of providers across the country have cobbled together safety net systems that effectively meet clients’ needs. As funding sources and program eligibilities and mechanisms shift – moving toward full ACA implementation in 2014 – the cables of the safety net are sometimes unraveling, and PLWHA are at risk of falling. The new healthcare landscape absolutely demands that entities previously unaccustomed to working together overcome turf and silo issues so that true access to HIV prevention and services is maintained.
In the long term, much remains to be seen in how health care reform is implemented, and whether the resources planned to support it actually become available, given the economy. What is clear is that the emphasis on evidence-based programming and demonstrable outcomes is growing and stronger than ever. Community-based organizations (CBOs) are competing for scarcer and scarcer funds, and will need to be able to justify the theoretical and research-based strengths of their interventions. Planning and conducting rigorous systems for monitoring program activities and documenting positive outcomes for clients will also be key to staying competitive. Building strong linkages between prevention programming and HIV testing, clinical and other services are essential, especially in light of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and High Impact HIV Prevention, CDC’s approach to reducing HIV infections in the U.S.
The C4H team has worked hard to get the best, most comprehensive information on these initiatives out to the HIV/AIDS prevention community – through its trainings, webinars and one-on-one capacity building assistance. We have deepened our monitoring and evaluation expertise so that we are ready to respond to capacity building requests from providers, as they realize assistance is available to make these changes. CBOs directly funded by the CDC for HIV prevention, in particular, have access to free capacity building services that can strengthen and enhance their programs in this regard. Now that the Supreme Court has given further ACA implementation the green light, it is an opportune time for providers to correspondingly move forward with their planning. C4H is here to help.