Planning Evaluation Through the Program Life Cycle

Different methods of evaluation are appropriate at different stages of a program and “can become an integrated managerial function in which data are continuously collected and used for decision-making and program improvement,” the authors write.

The lead author created an evaluation life-cycle framework that matches various methods of evaluation to the four phases of a program:

  1. Program Planning and Development
  2. Testing the Program for Causal Efficacy
  3. Normal Continuous Program Delivery
  4. Dissemination and Replication to Other Organizations

Five commentaries follow the main article and offer discussion of the life-cycle framework from the perspectives of an academic, an internal evaluator at a large nonprofit, a federal government evaluator, a Centers for Disease Control evaluator, and research staff at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

These last authors provide lessons learned about matching evaluation strategies to the program/evaluation life cycle: Start the evaluation at the beginning of the program and choose evaluators early; design evaluations with an understanding of the development state of a field; encourage mid-course corrections; and consider follow-up evaluations.

“For RWJF, the purpose of evaluation is learning,” they write, “for ourselves, for our grantees, for other foundations, for people running similar programs, and for the field at large.”