Growing up I was involved in a lot of different activities that involved practicing. Whether it was sports, school subjects, skills for Boy Scouts, or learning lines for school plays, there was always something to practice. I was always told that practice makes perfect or that practice gets you as close to perfect as possible, so that was how I went about getting better at just about everything. I practiced, made corrections, and repeated, all to get better at whatever activity was going on at that time.
When I started working in programming for a nonprofit, I realized that the idea of practice makes perfect can applies to program evaluation. When running programs, especially in early stages, it can be difficult to think of it as practice. But that’s what a lot of the early runs of a program are, practice! It is how you learn the details of a program and make sure that you are maximizing its potential. It is how you ensure the program’s goals and objectives are clear to participants and observers.
In evaluating the practice and early runs of a program I paid special attention to the parts that felt awkward to me or that I could tell did not reach the target audience in the way we intended. By making the corrections necessary and then continuing to run the programming, we were making the programs better and making ourselves better program facilitators.
There were also discussions about what went well and what felt good during a program. By looking at things that went well and went poorly, we were able to get a more holistic idea of how the program was operating. It was also an opportunity to celebrate successes so that the entire conversation was not just focused on areas of improvement. I found that approaching program evaluation from the lens of practicing made it less daunting, and therefore, easier for me.
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