Evaluation is a process that judges the value of a program, initiative, or other endeavor. It is different from assessment, which provides facts about the program, initiative, or endeavor. Assessments provide data for evaluations, and can include data-gathering activities such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations, and measurements. Evaluations help organizations determine whether or not a program was effective, worthwhile, or should be adjusted or ended.
There are several types of evaluation. For example, standards-based evaluations are designed for accountability purposes, such as reporting on the degree to which grant activities have been implemented, and how successful those activities were at meeting grant goals. Utilization-focused evaluations are designed so that stakeholders will use the evaluation information to make changes.
Ideally, evaluations should be planned as the program is being planned, so that data-gathering mechanisms can be established according to the original goals and activities in the program plan. If evaluation-planning is not done before the program activities start, there is a danger that the data gathered will be biased. In other words, data will be selected for evaluation based on the political dynamics in the organization. This organization will then use “decision-based data-making” rather than “data-based decision-making.”