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Making the grade

01/01/2008


From healthcare initiatives to our national defences, publicly funded programs have a huge impact on our communities - and can account for millions of tax dollars in funding.

Greg Lamothe, a management consultant with MNP’s Advisory Services team, says evaluating these projects is crucial given the critical role they can play in helping to improve access to health and social services, reinvigorate economies, boost local employment, and create regional economic balance.

“When you think about the lasting social effects publicly funded programs can have, it’s critical to ensure those funds are being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible,” says Greg.

What Evaluations Reveal
Evaluations are important whether a program is receiving $10,000 in funding or $1 million. Ultimately, the funding body and the public want a bottom line measure of a program’s success.

“The term ‘value for money’ audit is often used,” remarks Greg. “In essence, that means providing an indication of how much bang the government got for its buck.”

Greg adds a broader goal is to understand how a program has impacted participants, partner agencies and the community.

Top Five Benefits of Evaluating

Enhanced accountability. Provides stakeholders with valuable information about program performance and spending.

More informed decision making. Helps directors, policy makers, managers and funders make better decisions about program direction.

Increased knowledge and skills. Provides a clearer, more objective understanding of the program being evaluated.

Social change. Helps promote, defend, or oppose specific methods, approaches or programs and shape public opinion.

Increased cohesion and collaboration. Increases consistency and communication between departments or organizations and builds energy and enthusiasm within the program team.

These benefits can be used to empower those accountable for the program. Greg employs a well-known metaphor to make this point, “If knowledge is power, then the output of program evaluation can certainly place our clients in a position of power with their current and potential funders.”

By having timely, relevant, credible, and objective findings and conclusions on program performance, clients are in the enviable position of being the authority on their program. They will have the information necessary to make future decisions regarding their program that can improve performance, impact and efficiency.

Case study: Change Worth Measuring

The value of measuring bottom line results is particularly evident in Greg’s evaluation of a critical healthcare program.

A region in northwestern Ontario (NWO) was found to be more vulnerable to children being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) than the rest of the province.

A group of partner agencies in NWO acquired funding to establish a regional FASD clinic. The clinic would provide diagnostic and case management services to children in the region. Previously, obtaining a diagnosis was a challenging process as no clinics existed in the area.

As part of the funding agreement, a third party was required to evaluate the clinic’s success in reaching its goals. MNP was chosen to conduct the program evaluation, and gathered information through various avenues, including personal interviews, focus groups and clinic site visits.

MNP’s work resulted in key findings that illustrated the clinic’s success in reaching its objectives. The clinic was found to be having a positive effect on providing increased FASD diagnoses and case management services for more than 60 children. It also eliminated the need for travel in 26 cases.

“While evaluation is often viewed as a report card, it’s really more like a progress report, providing the client with practical information that can be used to make improvements. Those improvements can have real benefits for everyone involved, like it did with this client,” says Greg.

Improving for Tomorrow

The need to evaluate - and create a process that supports improvement - is critical to any publicly funded initiative, regardless of size. Greg asserts it’s also about helping organizations succeed.

“Our goal is to be objective and to give our clients suggestions on how to improve both their organizations and their management practices today and for the long haul.”

By Greg Lamothe, Management Consultant. For more information, please contact Greg at 1.877.500.0795 or your local MNP advisor.