Before it is ever launched, a program exists in concept—as a design, description or plan (see Program Theory Assessment). But once launched, the program meets on-the-ground realities: Is the organization adequately staffed and trained? Are responsibilities well assigned? Are the intermediate tasks being completed on schedule? If the program is designed to provide chlorine tablets to households to treat unclean water, for example, does the right number of chlorine tablets reach the appropriate distribution centers on time?
Process evaluation, also known as implementation assessment or assessment of program process, analyzes the effectiveness of program operations, implementation, and service delivery. When process evaluation is ongoing it is called program monitoring (as in Monitoring and Evaluation: M&E). Process evaluations help us determine, for example:
- Whether services and goals are properly aligned.
- Whether services are delivered as intended to the appropriate recipients.
- How well service delivery is organized.
- The effectiveness of program management.
- How efficiently program resources are used.1
Process evaluations are often used by managers as benchmarks to measure success, for example: the distribution of chlorine tablets is reaching 80% of the intended beneficiaries each week. These benchmarks may be set by program managers, and sometimes by donors. In many larger organizations, monitoring progress is the responsibility of an internal Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) department. In order to determine whether benchmarks are being met, data collection mechanisms must be in place.
1 Rossi, Peter, et al. Evaluation. A Systematic Approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1999.