Center for Applied Research & Evaluation
What We Do
WHY EVALUATE…AND WHAT TO EXPECT?

At the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, we’re big fans of evaluation. But we know not everyone is like us, and evaluation isn’t always well-understood. So here are a few things to know about what evaluation is, why it’s important, and what to expect if we partner with you.



WHAT EVALUATION IS

The dictionary definition says that to evaluate is to judge the value or condition of (someone or something) in a careful and thoughtful way. This certainly describes our process as we strive to be careful and thoughtful in all we do. In practice, the evaluations we perform usually focus on helping organizations determine what to do, who to do it for, and how and whether a program works once it’s implemented. In short, our evaluations help you target your work, document the effects, and determine what changes to pursue.

  • Evaluation includes such practices and products as the creation of logic models, community needs assessments, program evaluations, surveys, focus groups, various types of data analysis…among many other things.

  • Evaluation is not judgment (despite what Merriam-Webster might say) – it’s to help you grow and make informed decisions but not to be judged or feel bad about less than perfect results; it helps you learn and discover what’s really happening with your program/activities.

  • Evaluation is a professional field that involves highly specialized training and skills like those of the staff who work for the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation. To learn more about the standards and practices of the field, check out the American Evaluation Association.

  • Evaluation can help you get funding - Some sort of evaluation is required by most major funders. Additionally, many funders require logic models that outline your program, your expected outcomes and how you’ll evaluate them as part of your application. And the results of your evaluation (after you’re funded) help demonstrate to your funder your ability to achieve targeted outcomes and/or your efforts to identify why outcomes weren’t achieved as expected. Evaluation doesn’t require you to know the answers up-front. Because evaluation is investigative at its core, engaging in it allows your organization to learn and grow through the process.

Ultimately, if you don’t evaluate, you don’t know if what you’re doing for those you serve is targeted appropriately or makes a difference for them. Unfortunately, good feelings about what is done or smiles on the faces of those served are not convincing to those who want to see results.



WHAT TO EXPECT FROM AN EVALUATION CONDUCTED BY THE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH AND EVALUATION:
  • Expertise: Our staff of PhD, Masters, and Bachelors-level researchers/evaluators have over 70 years of experience in evaluation in the areas of mental health, early childhood development and education, youth development and leadership, substance use, crime, disabilities, civic leadership, community coalitions and initiatives, organizational capacity-building, and many others.

  • Collaboration: We work collaboratively with the organizations and groups. This means that we customize what we do based on a deep understanding of what you do and what you need. We consult with you on all relevant aspects of the process (e.g., creation of surveys, implementation of methods, reporting of results) to ensure we’re being responsive to and respectful of your needs and those of the persons you serve.

  • Innovation and Best Practices: We listen to what you need and then use our expertise to identify and implement the most sophisticated and appropriate methods for your project. These may include well known methods such as surveys or focus groups. Or they may involve more innovative methods such as Photovoice, in which participants take photos to illustrate their responses to evaluation questions.

  • Ethics and Professionalism: We’re serious about honoring the trust you put in us to help you do the best for those you serve. So we take time to make sure we understand what you want and to identify the most appropriate and respectful approach to your project. We’re also committed to confidentiality, both for individuals and organizations. And we always protect those who entrust us with their opinions and insights during processes such as surveys, focus groups, etc.

  • User-Friendly Reports: We want you to have documentation of the evaluation process but mostly we want it be useful to you. So our reports are written according to what will work best for the intended audience. If you want us to dazzle people with statistics, we can do it. If you want us to delight them with graphics, we can do that too.

  • Actionable Data: We don’t just leave you with a report; we help you move to action. After the report is completed, our staff are available to help your organization move from knowing to doing through facilitated discussions on how to make sense of and use data to spur action.

At the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, we know evaluation isn’t always the easiest. But we love evaluation, and would love the opportunity to show you why we think it’s great. So call us – we can help.