Evaluation of social service projects




Frazier, Robert L.,1936-

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Purpose The objectives of this study were: (1) to attempt to determine the basis for the poor state of affairs in social service project evaluation, for the purpose of, (2) defining project evaluation from the point of view of the project manager, (3) to find modern management techniques that would be usable in the social service project and, (4) to demonstrate how the definitions and techniques could be implemented and utilized in the social service project. Overlying the objectives stated above was the objective to attempt to demonstrate how the ideas developed could be implemented within the constraints of the multi-organizational structure found in the social services by defining responsibilities for the project manager, the funding agency and the evaluator. Methods The present status of evaluation in the social services was defined through an analysis of the literature concerning evaluation. The picture thus available was compared to the traditional planning and evaluating sequence for the purpose of identifying a longitudinal and vertical perspective for social service project evaluation. This perspective was then tested in two operational social service projects in order to demonstrate practicality. As a result of the demonstration findings, an attempt was made to describe project evaluation in terms of specific, time-oriented tasks that would lead to a complete evaluation system for any project taking into consideration the decision-making needs of all program administrative levels. Findings The poor state of affairs in social service evaluation can be laid in part to the academic-based approach. This is due to the insistence on utilizing a "methods" approach to evaluation without having given due consideration to the difference between research and evaluation. This is particularly true when it is considered that most social service projects do not belong to a single organization with administrators available to establish management and evaluation guidelines. Thus, many projects are dependent on the evaluator for internal information needs and these needs are not being met. It was further concluded that today's emphasis on overall program evaluation (validation) was often misdirected because it did not meet the requirements of management for information on internal operations. It would seem that evaluators are attempting to answer research questions in the operational project at the expense of management and project development needs. The poor state of affairs in both management and evaluation could be corrected by concentrating on evaluation from an internal project perspective. The funding agencies are obligated to utilize evaluation as a method of building project planning and evaluation "packages" for the purpose of transferring knowledge to other projects. This can be accomplished, and program validation can be enhanced in the long run, if evaluation is recognized as an integral part of project management. Evaluation of social service programs and projects is a new area involving new technology and evaluation efforts should be concentrated on building a base of project data in support of long-range plans developed for each type of project. This planning sequence can be baselined within project types with the result that project development and evaluation, as well as action research are supported. The funding agencies are the key to significant development at this stage. These are the only organizations that can adequately implement the standardization of evaluation that is required between projects. To assure long-term improvement, a new role for the manager and evaluator in the social services must be stressed through courses taught in our colleges and universities.



Social work administration, Social service