Finding an evaluator who can provide detailed and accurate information about program evaluation can be challenging. Places you might seek an evaluation partner include a local university or professional organization. For instance, the American Evaluation Association offers a feature to help you find a local evaluator.
There are some basic qualifications you should look for in an evaluator:
- Formal Education. Look for an evaluator with formal training in research methods. Many individuals receive this type of training while pursuing their graduate degree in a social science discipline. For example, someone with a Ph.D. in a behavioral health discipline may have the research knowledge to conduct evaluations.
- Experience. A qualified evaluator must have research skills and experience working with programs. For instance, if you are hiring an individual to evaluate a substance use disorder treatment program, that person should have actual experience working with treatment programs. Familiarity with the system is essential for communication, collaboration, and appropriate interpretation of evaluation findings.
- Evaluation Philosophy. Some evaluators will not share findings until the evaluation is complete. However, you and your program may benefit from working with an evaluator who sees the process as a collaboration among the evaluator, program managers, and staff. This approach views the program manager and staff as experts, and the evaluator works with them to document program activities, develop performance measures, interpret findings, and make recommendations for program improvement.
- Communication Skills. Your evaluator should be able to communicate with the wide variety of individuals vested in the results of this work. The evaluator should be personable, engaging, and able to clearly present findings orally and in writing.
Practice-Based Research Network
Rather than identifying an individual evaluator, you may also be able to find a practice-based research network (PBRN) that can help support your work. A PBRN is a group of practitioners interested in looking at the programs and processes used by that group to address client needs. They can provide a framework for assessing and evaluating the care of clients in community settings and may provide support through the availability of tools and resources.
These tips give you a quick overview of what to look for. You may want to explore other, more comprehensive guidance. One such in-depth guide on how to prepare for an evaluation and hire an evaluator is available from the Innovation Network.