Evaluation: A Systematic Approach

By Peter H. Rossi; Howard E. Freeman et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
USES OF EVALUATION RESEARCH

Systematic evaluations of social programs are a relatively recent development. Currently, evaluation research is a robust area of activity devoted to collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information on the need, implementation, and impact of intervention efforts to better the lot of humankind and improve social conditions and community life. Evaluations are undertaken for management and administrative purposes, for planning and policy development, and to meet fiscal accountability requirements.

In the planning of social intervention programs, the focus of research is on the extent and severity of problems requiring social intervention, and on designing programs to serve the amelioration goals desired. In the conduct of a project, there is concern with whether it is reaching its intended target population and if it is providing the resources, services, and other benefits planned. As interventions are continued or terminated, there is interest in whether they are effective in their impact and in the magnitude of their impacts. For fiscal accountability and future planning, it is important to compare costs to benefits, and an intervention's cost efficiency compared to alternative resource allocation strategies.

Some evaluations are comprehensive and consider all these questions; others are directed at only some of them. In all cases, the aim is to provide the most valid and reliable set of data possible, given the realities of conducting evaluations in context with political and ethical constraints and limitations of time, money, and human resources.

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