Is the Evaluation Hurting the Program?

May 16th, 2012 / Data Visualization /

We were extremely fortunate to have past and present Presidents of the American Evaluation Association as our guest speakers at the 2012 Eastern Evaluation Research Society’s conference – Eleanor Chelimsky, Jennifer Greene, and Rodney Hopson.
Even though the conference was a couple weeks ago, I’m still thinking about one of Rodney Hopson’s comments. He mentioned that sometimes he wonders whether evaluators/the evaluation are actually hurting the program rather than helping it.
I’ve certainly had similar experiences. Mostly, I’ve seen program staff get so excited about data that they want to collect more, and more, and then even more data. You can read about one of my experiences here.
This is a great idea at first. What’s the harm? More data is better, right?
But… a few months down the road, the program staff and I are swimming in more data than we can handle. And, we often have more data than we really need. After all, my goal as a utilization-focused evaluator is to collect information that will directly influence decisions about the program or the participants. Simple, quick, streamlined data can be more useful than complex, time-consuming data.
Have other evaluators felt like this? Have you ever questioned whether your involvement is hurting rather than helping?

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