Evaluation is a core component of development cycles in interventions for health promotion and prevention (please also refer to the Public Health Action Cycle - PHAC) and therefore also of the quint-essenz quality system. In the context of a project, evaluation refers to the systematic collection and analysis of information about various aspects of a project/intervention and its critical assessment. The focus may be on different factors, including planning, implementation, achievement of goals, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, etc. Evaluation differs from other assessment procedures such as controlling or quality assessment in that data is collected and evaluated based on scientific research methods and in the context of scientific knowledge.
From what perspective are evaluations carried out?
The perspectives on which evaluations are based differ in terms of timing and contents. The following distinction is made:
Planning evaluations (ex-ante) are carried out during the project or program development phase, before any measures are implemented. They examine the framework conditions and evaluate whether the project's expected outcomes can even be achieved with the available staff, organisational and financial resources and planned measures.
Process evaluations focus on the implementation of measures and the progress of the project and are usually carried out during the implementation phase. Process evaluations enable prompt consultations and therefore also opportunities to take corrective action early on, which is why they are also known as formative evaluations. A process evaluation may serve to optimise work processes and project management and provides key information about the overall assessment of a project.
Effectiveness evaluations (ex-post) summarise the outcomes of a project and assess the effects of the implemented measures. For this reason, they are also known as summative evaluations, balance or results evaluations. This type of evaluation is usually carried out towards the end of a project, after the interventions have been made. A results evaluation is carried out in order to document the project's success for the various participating and affected parties.
Evaluations are increasingly being called upon to assess the effectiveness of health promotion and prevention projects. However, this presents an immense challenge due to the complexity of the field, the long-term nature of effects and the multitude of external factors involved. Identifying effects based on unequivocal cause-and-effect relationships is difficult in social contexts and usually impossible. Instead, the objective is to identify the most plausible evidence for effects and cause-and-effect relationships at various levels.
Evaluating project quality
If the evaluation is to focus on assessing the quality of a project, the quality criteria of quint-essenz can be used as a reference. The 24 criteria and corresponding indicators are considered in isolation and specific strengths and areas for improvement are highlighted. Quality targets and measures are then formulated in order to improve the quality of the project. This type of quality evaluation can be carried out in all project phases, but it is particularly recommended towards the end of the conception phase so that key corrections can be made prior to implementation.
Evaluation standards and principles
Various national evaluation companies have developed standards, guidelines and principles for evaluation. Upholding these standards helps to avoid errors and frustrations with evaluations.
- WHO-Europe (2001). Evaluation in health promotion. Principles and perspectives. WHO regional publications. European series, No 92.
- Nutbeam, D. & Bauman, A. (2006). Evaluation in a nutshell. A practical guide to the evaluation of health promotion programs. New York: McGraw-Hill
- Patton, M. Q. (2011) Developmental evaluation. Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and use. New York: Guilford Press.
Why you would disregard these aspects
- You have allotted no or insufficient resources for the evaluation.
- You lack the professional know-how for planning and executing evaluation measures.
What you have to gain
- Evaluation results offer a solid foundation for developing and managing your project.
- A professional, third-party perspective is useful for revealing blind spots.
- Positive evaluation results can substantially boost the legitimacy of your interventions.
What you can actually do
If there are conflicting interests that cannot be reconciled, make a list of priorities. Not all potential questions can be examined in an evaluation.
With the help of the quint-essenz template, you can create an evaluation plan that resolves and documents the most important issues. The evaluation plan is the basis for quote requests from evaluation organisations or evaluation specialists.
Questions for critical reflection
- Has evaluation been adequately accounted for in the planning of your project and your budget?
- Have you determined the perspective from which the evaluation is to be carried out? When will it be implemented and what will its focus be?
- Is there a clearly designated person responsible for the (self-) evaluation?