Evaluation, broadly defined as the act of assessing or appraising, ensures accountability for benchmarks on the kind of change your collective action brings about. Accompanying the section on each of the four Action Guide prongs is guidance to help you assess and reflect on decisions reached, actions taken, and progress made toward long-term sustainability of your chosen interventions. Such assessments will enable you to change your strategy or tactics when you encounter barriers.
When you start using this four-pronged strategy for sustainability, among the associated tasks you and your team will face are: 1) devising a method for integrating the diverse program efforts across topic areas; 2) devising some measures to ascertain whether the programs or interventions you seek to sustain are worth sustaining and 3) determining the aspects of sustainability you plan to target.
Determining how to evaluate progress toward your long-term goal of sustaining child development and prevention interventions should be part of your early collective conversations as this creates a roadmap for all subsequent decisions. Measuring progress toward your goal allows you to reflect on whether your objectives are being met, how the process led there, what was successful and what was not, and to identify improvements in your actions. Engaging in an ongoing assessment of progress becomes an organizing frame from which to connect the multiple activities proposed by this Guide, fosters engagement with diverse stakeholders, and supports a shared understanding of the purpose behind the collective movement.
If you begin with the end in mind you improve the chances of achieving your desired outcomes.
Starting from the assumption that your goal is sustainability, there are two shared premises:
The Action Guide promotes sustainability through policy and systems change, and through community engagement. With complex systems and policy change of the kind this Action Guide promotes, “…evaluation, conducted from a utilization-focused perspective, facilitates ongoing innovation by helping those engaged in (the) innovation to examine the effects of their actions…”
From our definition of sustainability, i.e., “the continued use of program components and activities for the continued achievement of desirable program and population outcomes” – you and your Team will customize the four-pronged strategy and identify what your own measures of success will be, and over what general time frame. Together you will develop a process or concept for identifying some “small victories,” recognizing that the specifics may change as opportunities emerge or disappear.
For additional tips and tools on the basic principles of designing and implementing an evaluation approach, see tools and resources on sidebar.
 [Adapted from] Patton, MQ. (1997). Utilization-focused evaluation: The new century text. 3rd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; Patton M.Q. (2011). Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and use.
 Scheirer, M.A., & Dearing, J.W. (2011). An Agenda for Research on the Sustainability of Public Health Programs. American Journal of Public Health, 101(11), p. 2060.
Updated June 2015