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Stages of Program Development
Given the limited resources
and time available to most MRC unit coordinators, program evaluation activities
should be as practical and focused as possible. This will help assure that the
evaluation is conducted efficiently and addresses the issues of greatest concern
Too often, evaluation is
perceived as an activity reserved for mature programs that want to examine
their overall effectiveness. Although this form of evaluation, known as
summative evaluation, can be very valuable, entities like the MRC can also
benefit from evaluation activities that support program improvement (i.e.,
formative evaluation) while the program is still growing. Thus, one approach
unit coordinators can use to promote a realistic and practical evaluation
strategy is to link evaluation activities to various stages of program
The published literature
characterizes the development of non-profit or volunteer-based organizations in
various ways. This development is often referred to as the "life cycle" of an
organization, since it tends to progress through a series of defined stages
that are similar to the maturation process a person goes through from infancy,
to childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The defining activities and
structures of one stage are not necessarily going to be the same as those in
One of the simplest and most
effective ways to view organizational development is through the following four
Stage #1: Formation—the organization or coalition is young and the
basic strategy is one of survival. The structure is highly individualized.
Stage #2: Implementation—the organization or coalition is growing and the
strategy is to establish systems to manage the growth and maintain control. The
organization has become functionally structured at this point, which may be
characterized by the establishment of a governing body or steering committee,
development of an action plan, and proactive recruitment.
Stage #3: Maintenance—the organization or coalition is fully established
and the strategy is geared towards expansion and diversification. The structure
is fully developed to enable the organization to exist as a full partner with
Stage #4: Outcome—the organization or coalition has achieved its
primary goals and the strategy is to seek additional diversification of
services as some initial services reach the end of their life cycle.
Alternative models of
program development may specify slightly different stages; however, there are
generally common elements between them. For instance, most models characterize
the initial stages of development as highly dependent on innovative or
entrepreneurial activities, which seek to develop a market niche or build on a
particular ideology. A primary driver of initial development is the acquisition
of resources and building of strategic relationships. Similarly, mature
organizations typically have achieved some level of institutionalization, which
occurs when policies and rules become more firmly established and formalized.6
These stages provide a
conceptual framework for program development and can be useful to the MRC
coordinator in planning to assess their unit's performance. Just as the
activities and structures in one stage will not necessarily be the same as in another
stage, so too may the evaluation criteria differ. MRC coordinators conducting a
self-evaluation must ensure that the evaluation goals are defined to properly
match the focus of the organization at that point in time.7
It is also important to specify at the outset, both to internal and external
stakeholders, why the evaluation is being done and how the information will be
Using the four stages of
development previously described, we examine some of the evaluation goals that
might be most applicable. During the formation and implementation stages,
program activities are untested and the goal of evaluation is to refine plans.
Evaluation activities may focus primarily on making sure the right stakeholders
have been engaged and that appropriate and realistic goals and objectives have
been established. In addition, such issues as resource acquisition and the
development of external partnerships may be examined. The governing body or
steering committee for the MRC unit should review any goal(s) and objectives
outlined in a strategic plan to ensure they are aligned with the needs of the
community and the expectations of key partners and stakeholders.
During the implementation
stage, activities will be field-tested and modified. The goal of evaluation is to
characterize real, as opposed to ideal, program activities and improve
operations, perhaps by revising plans and refining internal process issues.9
As the MRC unit progresses into the maintenance stage, it may seek to expand
its activities and service offerings. Performance measurement will focus
primarily on process measures to determine if the unit is operating as
intended. It may also be appropriate at this stage to examine the potential
impact of activities on short-term outcomes (e.g., changes in knowledge or
skills). In this way, measures of effectiveness may shift towards goal
attainment and productivity.
As the MRC unit enters the
outcome stage, it will have accumulated significant experience and data to
determine whether it has been successful in meeting (or making progress towards
meeting) its goals and objectives. During this stage, enough time has passed
for the program's effects to emerge and the goal of evaluation should be to
identify and account for both intended and unintended effects. A results-oriented
approach will shift the focus primarily on outcomes measures, with the
understanding that this information should feed back into strategic planning to
reexamine and modify the unit's goals and objectives, as necessary. This will
help MRC coordinators ensure that as their unit grows, it remains responsive to
the most pressing needs of the community.
4. Robert E. Quinn and Kim Cameron. "Organizational Life Cycles and Shifting Criteria of Effectiveness: Some Preliminary Evidence." Management Science, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 1983), pp. 33-51.
5. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Building Partnerships. http://www.cdc.gov/drspsurveillancetoolkit/docs/BUILDING_PARTNERSHIPS_TO_MARKET_THE_MESSAGE.pdf
6. Robert E. Quinn and Kim Cameron. "Organizational Life Cycles and Shifting Criteria of Effectiveness: Some Preliminary Evidence." Management Science, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January 1983), pp. 33-51.
Marty Campbell and Charles McClintock. "Shall We Dance? Program Evaluation Meets OD in the Nonprofit Sector." OD Practitioner, Vol. 34, No. 4 (2002). Available at: http://www.irvine.org/assets/pdf/pubs/evaluation/Shall_We_Dance.pdf.
9. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health. MMWR 1999;48(No. RR-11). http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr4811.pdf
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