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An evaluation is a research project: we are trying to discover what works and under what conditions.The steps for designing and using an evaluation – the subject of this chapter – are essentially the same as those for designing the program you’re evaluating.Or you might realize that something you’d intended to do simply hasn’t worked in a number of other instances, and so wouldn’t be likely to work for you, either.
Once you’ve separated these parts out, you can put those that meet your needs together with what you’ve learned about the issue and your own ideas to build a program that speaks specifically to your situation.
As we’ve mentioned, the activities of information gathering and synthesis are needed both to create the original program and to develop an evaluation of it that will help you maintain and improve it.
You’d probably read about earth-bermed houses (houses that are built into a hillside or earth mound), solar panels or windmills for producing electricity, efficient insulating windows, waste-water recycling, and non-toxic building materials that reuse waste wood and metal.
You’d talk to people who built or owned energy-efficient houses, to hear about the realities of living green.
Once these are determined, they in turn determine your evaluation questions.
You can’t construct an evaluation without knowing exactly what you’re trying to evaluate.This section looks at gathering all the information you can about your community issue and about attempts to address it, and putting that information together to design an evaluation to address your questions.Although this chapter is about evaluation, much of the material in these sections applies to planning the intervention (or program) and the evaluation: the two really can’t be separated.You’d learn about the barriers to some environmentally-friendly strategies, as well as ways to get around those barriers.There’s a huge amount of information out there, and it would make sense to gather as much of it as possible, so that you could put together the information, incorporate appropriate elements into your design, and get new ideas based on what’s already been done.Synthesizing in this way requires identifying the functional elements of each idea or program that you’ve looked at that seems to hold lessons for your work.Functional elements are the core components of each program – the methods, framework, activities, techniques, and other aspects – that make up the specific program you’re examining.New ideas tend to come out of what others have attempted.Most artists start out imitating others before they develop their own styles.Knowing what they did, how they did it, and what the results were can help you decide how to design your effort.You might be able to find a method here, and a technique elsewhere that all fit together into exactly the program that will suit the people and conditions in your community.