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OERC Blog

A Weblog from the NN/LM Outreach Evaluation Resource Center

DYI Tool for Program Success Stories (Program Success Stories Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about program success stories. As a follow-up, I want to introduce you to a story builder tool available at the CDC Injury Prevention and Control web site. The story builder takes you through three steps to produce an attractive, well-written program success story. Each step offers downloadable Microsoft Word documents to walk you through the process.

Step 1: The worksheets are designed to gather and organize project information for your story. I think it would be interesting to use this step as a participatory activity. You could pull together your project team or a group of stakeholders to talk through questions in this worksheet. The discussion would help group members articulate the program’s value from their perspective.

Step 2: This step provides a story builder template to write your story, section by section. Each section has a field to develop a paragraph of your story, with some tips for writing in a compelling, user-friendly way. Each completed field prepares you for the final step.

Step 3: Here, you can download a layout template, where you transfer the paragraphs from your story builder template into the layout. Because this is a Word document, you can change background design, font, or even the size and placement of pictures and call-out quote boxes.

If you are thinking of trying your hand at program success stories, this story building web page provides some useful DYI tools to help you get started.

"What is Your Story" typed on paper in an old typewriter

Telling Good Stories about Good Programs

Sometimes our program successes are a well-kept secret, hidden deep in our final reports under pages of statistics, tables, and descriptive details. There is a way to shine a stronger light on positive program impacts: program success stories. These are short (1-2 page) narratives that are designed to educate policy makers, attract partners, and share effective practices among colleagues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deserves credit in leading a program success story movement within the public health sector. You can find lots of resources at the CDC’s website for developing program success stories. A quick Google search will turn up many success story web pages from public health departments, such as the three listed below:

If you want to create success stories for your program or organization, you need to start with a plan. You want to establish a routine to collect information in a timely manner. To get started, check out the CDC Division of Oral Health’s Tips for Writing an Effective Success Story. For more details, the CDC offers the workbook Impact and Value: Telling Your Program’s Story. The CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health also has a how-to guide for writing success stories: How to Develop a Success Story. Finally, you might find this Success Story Data Collection Tool helpful for organizing and writing your program story.  A data collection sheet could be particularly useful if multiple team members are involved in collecting success story data. The data collection tool is available in PDF or Word formats.

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Easy Email Newsletters for Keeping Stakeholders Informed

Do you find it difficult to ensure that you are keeping your stakeholders up to date throughout your program? In her AEA Summer Institute class entitled “An Executive Summary is Not Enough: Effective Evaluation Reporting Techniques,” Kylie Hutchinson from Community Solutions suggests a very interesting product for staying in touch with stakeholders. The product is Constant Contact, a tool that allows you to put the latest stats, activities, or planning updates into a newsletter format that goes into the body of an email, allowing stakeholders to easily stay updated on the progress of your program. In addition, you, the evaluator, get feedback on who opens the email and what they click on.

Here is a sample email created for free in just a few moments, showing NN/LM stakeholders what activities took place in May in an imaginary community college outreach project.

Constant Contact

Components of Process Evaluation

At the American Evaluation Association Summer Institute, Laura Linnan, Director of the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work & Health at UNC Gillings School of Public Health, did a workshop entitled Process Evaluation: What You Need to Know and How to Get Started. According to the CDC, process evaluation is the systematic collection of information on a program’s inputs, activities, and outputs, as well as the program’s context and other key characteristics.

Logic Model Image from CDC

Process evaluation looks at the specific activities that take place during an outreach project to ensure that planned interventions are carried out equally at all sites and with all participants, to explain why successes happen or do not happen, and to understand the relationships between the project components. Process evaluation can be extremely important in making adjustments to ensure the project’s success, and determining how or whether to do a project again.

In the workshop I attended, Linnan walked through the details covered in Chapter 1 of the book Process Evaluation for Public Health Interventions and Research by Laura Linnan and Allan Steckler. This chapter presents an overview of process evaluation methods. In it, they define a set of terms that describe the components of process evaluation (Table 1.1). These components are valuable to understand, because evaluators can look in detail at each component to determine which ones should be evaluated.

  1. Context
  2. Reach
  3. Dose delivered
  4. Dose received
  5. Fidelity
  6. Implementation
  7. Recruitment

In addition, the authors describe a step-by-step process for designing and implementing process evaluation in a flow chart shown in Figure 1.1, including: creating an inventory of process objectives; reaching consensus on process evaluation questions to be answered; creating measurement tools to assess process objectives; analyzing data; and creating user-friendly reports. And as a final note, Linnan and Steckler recommend that stakeholders be involved in every aspect of this process.

Lesson Learned: Outputs are Cool!

AEA Summer Institute Logo

Cindy Olney and I just returned from the American Evaluation Association Summer Institute in Atlanta, GA. The blog posts for the next couple of months will be filled with lessons learned from the Institute. I am going to start with Outputs, because they were the greatest surprise to me.

In his “Introduction to Program Evaluation,” Thomas Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that he thought outputs were just as important as outcomes. This was quite shocking to me, since it always seemed like outputs were just the way of counting what had been done, and not nearly as interesting as finding out if the desired outcome had happened.

Outputs are the tangible products of the activities that take place in a project. For example, let’s say the project’s goal is to reduce the number of children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL) by screening children to identify the ones with EBLL and then referring them to health professionals for medical management. In this brief project description, the activities would be to:

1) Screen children to identify the ones with EBLL
2) Refer them to health professionals for medical management

If outputs are the tangible products of the activities, they are sometimes thought to be something countable, like “the number of children screened for EBLL” and “the number of referrals.” This is how the project manager can ensure that the activities took place that were planned.

However, if you think about the way an activity can take place, you can see that some methods of completing the activities might lead to a successful outcomes, and some might not. A better way of thinking of the outputs might be “what would an output look like that would lead to the outcome that we are looking for?” To use “referrals” as an example, let’s say that during the program 100% of the children identified with EBLL were referred to health professionals, but only 30% of them actually followed up and went to a health professional. If the only information you gathered was the number of referrals, you cannot tell why the success rate was so low. Some of the things that could go wrong in a referral is that people are referred to physicians who are not taking more patients, or to physicians who don’t speak the same language as the parents of the child. So you might want to define the referral output as including those factors. The new output measure could be “the number of referrals to ‘qualified’ physicians,” in which ‘qualified’ is defined by the attributes you need to see in the physicians, such as physicians who are taking new patients, or physicians who speak the same language as the family.

The lesson for me is that outputs are as important as outcomes because by thinking carefully about outputs at the beginning of the planning process, you can ensure that the project has the greatest chance of successful outcomes, and by using outputs during process evaluation, you can make any needed corrections in the process as it is happening to ensure the greatest success of the project.

Use Evaluation Samples as Shortcuts

VIVA project logo

We are often asked for samples of questionnaires and evaluations for information outreach projects. This peer tutor project from the Texas Rio Grande Valley has posted a number of sample evaluation documents that can be modified for other information outreach projects

The ¡VIVA! (Vital Information for a Virtual Age) Project is a high school-based health information outreach initiative in which high school students (peer tutors) from the South Texas Independent School District are trained to use and promote MedlinePlus, a consumer-health database of the NIH National Library of Medicine. Since 2001, these teen peer tutors have taught others about MedlinePlus through class demonstrations, student orientations, school open houses, and community events.

Evaluation has been a strong component of this program since its inception. As part of an online Implementation Guide , the ¡VIVA! Peer Tutor Project team posted many sample evaluation forms and documents. These can be modified to fit your own outreach evaluation needs. Here are some examples:

Logic Model and Evaluation Plan: Here is a sample of how to tie a logic model to the project’s evaluation plan based on outcomes.

Interview guides: It can take a long time to form the perfect questions for interviewing individuals or focus groups. See if these questions will work, and if not, see if you can adjust them.

Training Assessments: Here are some basic questionnaires designed to find out what students have learned and how they would rate their training session.

Feel free to use these shortcuts to make evaluation fit more easily into your workflow! If you have any questions about the program or the evaluation forms, feel free to contact Cynthia Olney.

Improve Your Presentations

Death by Presentation by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig (CC BY-ND 2.0)  No changes.

Death by Presentation by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig (CC BY-ND 2.0) No changes.

In a recent blog post, evaluator Stephanie Evergreen suggested that people no longer ask for power point slides at the end of a presentation (Stop Asking if the Slides are Available).  Her point is that the slides should support the speaker and be fairly useless on their own.  If the audience needs a reminder of what was said, the speaker should provide handouts, with main points and resources listed, as well as links to engaging dashboards and infographics.

In her blog post, Stephanie Evergreen has 10 points for improving your presentations.  You don’t like it when people read their slides? Her first point is to remove text from slides so the focus of the audience goes back to what the speaker is saying. A complementary point she makes is that the graphics on the slide be emotional to help the audience remember what the speaker is saying.

What makes Evergreen’s 10 points unique in the world of presentation advice is that many of them are about charts and graphs.  For example, her point, “Choose the right chart so that your results tell the best story,”  ties what some might see as dry charts into the story that your presentation is telling. Another one, “Keep it easy to interpret your graphs with close data labels and a descriptive subtitle,” is a suggestion that re-occurs in her blog and book, Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact.  For a detailed checklist of how to make a better graph, take a look at her Data Visualization Checklist.

The OERC Expanding Its Limits at MLA ‘15

The OERC will do its part in keeping Austin weird this week at the 2015 Medical Library Association conference.  If you happen to be around, stop by our presentations on Sunday (5/17) afternoon and say hi.

First up, Cindy Olney and other members of the !VIVA! Peer Tutor Project Team the will be exhibiting their poster:

Collaboration without Limits: A High School Student Intern and Health Care Providers Band Together for Patient Health Literacy (#49)
Austin Convention Center, Level One, Exhibit Hall 4
2:00 – 2:55 pm

South Texas ISD librarians Sara Reibman (who designed the poster), Lucy Hansen, and Ann Vickman also will be at the poster session. They have been training high school students to use and promote MedlinePlus and other health information resources since the !VIVA! Peer Tutor Project started in 2002. This poster describes a health information outreach project conducted by STISD high school student Yawar Ali and featured in a previous OERC blog post. We are hoping that Yawar will be joining us via Skype.

Karen Vargas will be presenting the following paper later on Sunday afternoon:

Boot up Your Lifelong Learning: Community Colleges and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) Outreach Initiative
Austin Convention Center, Level Four, Ballroom E.
5:05-5:20 pm

Her co-presenters are Lisa Huang from Collin College (McKinney, TX) and Michelle Malizia, University of Houston. The panel will describe how one community college pushed the limits and collaborated with its regional medical library to offer educational opportunities in support of the Five-Year NN/LM Community College Outreach Initiative.

For our colleagues who are also attending MLA ‘15, we hope to see you there!

Billboard with postcard of Austin

Low Cost Mapping Tools on NLM’s Community Health Maps Blog

Map of Childhood Lead Poisoining Risk in Philadelphia, PA from CDC Map Gallery

Have you ever wanted to be able to use mapping for your outreach needs, but thought that making maps would be too expensive, time-consuming, or just too difficult?   The National Library of Medicine has a blog called Community Health Maps: Information on Low Cost Mapping Tools for Community-based Organizations, with the goal of facilitating the use of geographic information system (GIS) mapping by providing information about low cost mapping tools, software reviews, best practices, and the experiences of those who have successfully implemented a mapping workflow as part of their work.  The blog is moderated by Kurt Menke, a certified GIS professional.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things you can find on the Community Health Maps blog:

  • A short guide for using iForm for field data collection. iForm is an app that can be used on iPads, iPhones and Android devices, and has a free version.  Using this app, you could go to different locations, gather data (for example, demographic information about attendance at your program), and view it in tabular or map format.
  • A description of a project using youth in the Philippines to collect data on the needs of their communities.  Technology + Youth = Change showed how a dozen donated phones helped 30 young adults survey and map information on access to water, electricity, jobs, and more.
  • A review of a pilot project done by the Seattle Indian Health Board’s Urban Indian Health Institute on noise pollution and health in the urban environment. One of the goals of the pilot project was to determine whether this kind of data collection and analysis would be feasible with other urban Indian health organizations, so they selected participants who had limited experience with data collection and GIS. The feedback suggested that the GIS software tools were very user-friendly and effective.

Photo credit: Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Analysis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from the CDC Map Gallery

Guerrilla Assessment Methods

Recently, the Association of Research Libraries email discussion list had an enthusiastic discussion about guerrilla assessment techniques. These are low-cost, unconventional data collection methods that gather timely responses from library users. I thought I would share some of the favored methods from this discussion.

Graffiti walls seemed to be the most popular guerrilla method discussed in this group. Users were invited to write responses to one question on white boards or flip charts; or they were asked to write comments on sticky notes and post them to bulletin boards. Questions might be related, for example, to library space use or new furniture choices, or users might write suggestions for new resources. Pictured below is a colorful example of a graffiti wall from Clemson University’s Cooper Library posted by Peggy Tyler. Flip charts also were featured in this space use assessment conducted at University of Pittsburgh University Library System (see the FlipChart Analysis and the Flipchart Survey—Our Response presentations).

Short questionnaires to collect on-the-spot responses from users were also mentioned frequently. Some libraries placed laptops in conspicuous parts of the library to capture responses. Others took advantage of tablets, such as this project conducted at Georgia State University. Sometimes the low-tech approach worked best, featuring paper-and-pencil questionnaires or note cards for written comments.

Photographs also were used creatively to capture helpful assessment information. University of Pittsburgh University Library System staff used photographs to examine use of study space. With so many library users carrying mobile phones with cameras, there is a lot of potential for inviting users to incorporate photographs into their responses to assessment questions. In the ARL-assess discussion, Holt Zaugg at Brigham Young’s Harold B. Lee Library described a study in which student volunteers took pictures of places on campus that they thought fit a certain characteristic (e.g. too noisy, busy place to study).  The staff did follow-up interviews with the student volunteers for added insight about their photographs.

Guerrilla methods may look easy, but they do require careful planning and thought. You’ll need well-crafted, focused questions. You also will need an effective promotional strategy to attract user participation. And you’ll want a well-executed schedule for collecting and inputting data so that key information is not lost. Yet these guerrilla methods are worth the challenge, because they engage both participants and staff in the assessment process.  These methods are a refreshing alternative to conventional methods.

Graffitti Wall at Cooper Library at Clemson
Graffitti Wall at Cooper Library at Clemson

 

 

Last updated on Saturday, 23 November, 2013

Funded by the National Library of Medicine under contract # HHS-N-276-2011-00008-C.