What are some essential elements of an argument for the importance of program and policy evaluation?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In developing an argument for the importance of policy and program evaluations, there has to be a focus on critical reflection.  Most arguments regarding the importance of program and policy evaluation are rooted in whether or not the program or policy is accomplishing what it set out to do and whether its focus has remained intact.  In the realm of social work and helping others, this becomes an essential part of the argument for the importance of program and policy evaluation.

I think that framing this argument in a particular context is essential.  Most individuals who receive some type of social service from an agency do so with a bit of trepidation.  They recognize that they are vulnerable, and this vulnerability demands that the program or policy be effective.  If it moves into the realm of ineffectiveness, you have people who are not being helped, but rather having their worst fears and vulnerabilities confirmed. Therefore, I would suggest than an essential argument for the importance of program and policy evaluation is to ensure that people's faith in external resources are being rewarded and not deferred or rejected.

Another critical element within the argument for the importance of program and policy evaluation is the sustenance of the program.  Given how budgets on all levels are scrutinizing costs and looking to decrease the number of programs offered, when programs are not being regularly evaluated for effectiveness, it makes it easy for external agencies to eliminate such programs.  This impacts the people receiving services in a tremendously intense manner.  I would feel that this has to be a critical part of an argument for the importance of program and policy evaluation. In order for the program to exist, it must be evaluated in terms of whether its functionality can justify the expenditures associated with it.

Finally, I would suggest that an argument supporting the need for continual evaluation of program and policy evaluation is to support the aims of a democratic society.  Democracy is not static.  It is constantly in change and always in flux.  It breathes and changes in accordance to the needs of the people.  When we treat policies and programs as something not static, not subject to evaluation and reflection, we go against the nature of programs and policies in a democratic setting.  Jefferson advocated the idea of a "revolution every twenty years."  The implication was that liberal democracies work best when there is continual and steady sources of reflection and transformation of thought.  Policies and programs that are adopted to serve the needs of a democratic society have to be viewed in the same light.  It is for this reason that it is essential for programs and policies to be reviewed and evaluated on a continual basis.

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