Creating an evaluation plan should be one of your very first activities, because developing the plan can help define the program’s key goals and values. Also, it is important to know what outcomes you want to examine when collecting baseline data before the start of the program.1,2 The first step of evaluation planning is to engage stakeholders, including those who are involved in the program, those who are served by the program and those who will be using the evaluation.1 The next step is to describe the program, including its mission, objectives, goals and strategies.1,3 Describing the program helps clarify goals and purpose to all stakeholders and helps connect particular program components to desired outcomes.1 Include the following: the need the program addresses, its expected effects, planned activities, the resources it will use, what stage of development it is in (challenges differ between new and old programs) and how it fits into the workplace environment.1 You may want to construct a logic model, a chart that helps you visualize how different components of the intervention will lead directly or indirectly to desired outcomes.
Finally, you must choose the evaluation design. When choosing a design, you should consider: the purpose of the evaluation (gaining insight, changing practices and assessing effects are common purposes); who will use the evaluation results and how; what questions you want the evaluation to answer; what methods you will use; how rigorous of an evaluation you can conduct and what agreements you have made (e.g., legal contracts, protocols, memorandums).1,3 You should also plan how you will collect data. Using multiple methods and involving stakeholders improves credibility, as does taking information from different sources and examining multiple activities and outcomes.1 While you want to maximize the quality and quantity of data, you must also consider the logistics and the limits of your organization and staff (or any outside evaluators you hire).3