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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation for decision in human service programs Bruce, Peter K.

Abstract

The fundamental purpose of program evaluation is to gather information that will increase the rationality of decisionmaking. Yet there is ample evidence in the literature that evaluation findings are often ignored by decisionmakers. Why? Some suggest that evaluations are not providing relevant information to decisionmakers and that the manner in which evaluation is being carried out is discouraging the use of evaluation results. Practitioners in the field of evaluation have long recognized this problem of non-utilization. But attempts to correct the problem have in large measure focused on the final stage of the evaluation effort - the dissemination of results. A major premise of this thesis is that utility (as perceived by decisionmakers) must be built into each and every stage in the evaluation. It addresses the question, "How can evaluation be designed and implemented, and its findings disseminated in a way that will make it more utilitarian to decisionmakers?" The author identifies twenty-five concepts or 'Utility Principles' which hold promise to improve the usefulness of results to decisionmakers. To illustrate how these principles might be applied in a social action setting, a utility-focused evaluation model is designed for the Community Service Order Program of the British Columbia Corrections Branch. Finally, the limitations and opportunities of a utility-focused approach to evaluation are examined.

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