Many of you offer training sessions to various groups in order to move the needle and make communities better. These training sessions are as varied as your areas of expertise, covering topics like financial literacy, self-defense, managing chronic disease, cultivating healthy relationships, and so much more. You put time and effort into the training session, and you truly do want it to make a difference in people’s lives. So how do you evaluate your training sessions to find out if you made a difference?
I took an entire course in graduate school on training—how to design a good training, how to implement it, and how to evaluate it. Fortunately for you, I won’t spend an entire semester on the topic, but I will hopefully convey the important parts!
All fields have jargon that only they understand. I personally feel like jargon/specialized terminology just makes it more difficult to understand each other, and to draw parallels from the work you do to the work others do (which are often quite strong, despite different word use).
One source of terminology confusion in evaluation is the difference between outputs and outcomes. Both of these are things that you measure to demonstrate your impact (which, as mentioned in a previous post, is sooooo important!). So today I wanted to demonstrate the difference between the two and make it easy as pie for you to grasp and remember.
These last few weeks I’ve focused on needs assessments. An important (although unglamorous) first step in needs assessments is to comb the data that already exists in the public space to see what you can learn.
Collecting data yourself can be expensive and time consuming. So if there’s a chance that the information you need already exists out there, you should most definitely take the time to find it! It’ll be a serious money saver. But finding existing data isn’t always easy.
Here’s my four favorite searchable sources of useful secondary data:
Previously, when I mentioned needs assessments, I talked about very specific needs assessments, the type an organization might do before implementing a program. But there’s also a broader type of needs assessment that we are actively involved in, known as a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). CHNAs are designed to assess the community as a whole, and to identify what needs exist. CHNAs can be used by many, many organizations in the community to design and implement services.
Last week I talked about how needs assessments are a great way to find out what your target audience needs, and what programs would be best to meet those needs. But what if you do a needs assessment, and it turns out that your constituents need about 1,000,000 things to have a happy, healthy, productive life? What do you do then?
None of us have limitless resources to spend on addressing the needs in our community. And as much as we’d like to fix everything, that’s just not humanly possible, especially in the very disadvantaged communities or the very vulnerable groups of constituents. So we end up focusing our time, effort, and resources on needs that are both common and that have serious consequences. Prevalence and severity are the name of the game in needs assessments.
The last couple weeks I’ve focused on program evaluation, which is an awesome way to use data to change communities for the better. But long before you do a program evaluation—hell, before the program is even a twinkle in your eye—comes the needs assessment.
A needs assessment is just what it sounds like: finding out what your target audience needs. You may be thinking, “I work with my community every day, I know what they need!” And you’re probably right. You are an expert on what your constituents need—whether that’s clean drinking water, gender equality, health insurance, or active transportation options. And, by extension, you probably know what programs and services they would benefit from. But there are many benefits of a needs assessment. Today, I’ll share with you my top two favorites.