LEAP Consulting’s presentation introduced several themes that emerged over the 5-year evaluation. These themes, outlined below, demonstrate how evaluations that are well-positioned to evaluate systems change can become powerful tools to increase a project's impact.
Developing a Theory of Change, and revising that Theory of Change throughout the program, was important to maintain a clear perspective of how the program components work together to elicit impact.
Distinguishing between early changes, systems changes, and population-level changes was important for explicating what changes we expect to see more concretely. Ensuring each level of change with a distinctive evaluative approach, yet reporting on them collectively was important to paint a clear picture of the system change underway.
For example, an early change may involve piloting an internship program within a single university, a systems change may involve scaling that same internship program state-wide, and a population-level change may involve the project's contribution to STEM graduate rates in South Dakota.
3. Reflecting critically on program sustainability and the capacities needed to sustain a state-level, outcome-producing infrastructure were important for planning future program activities.
Again, using the example of a state-wide internship program. How would this program be funded beyond the EPSCoR grant in the state?
It was evident throughout this presentation and discussion that the systems approach to the evaluation of SD EPSCoR’s program activities helped the REACH Committee and the EPSCoR program team think more concretely about the impact that EPSCoR has had at all levels over the life of the program. These conversations are critical for future planning of program activities, especially related to the sustainability of the change that program components have had in promoting STEM research, innovation, and education across the state. By using a systems approach to evaluation, LEAP Consulting was better able to account for and monitor the complexities of this type of work in achieving large scale goals, such as changing the landscape of STEM state-wide.
LEAP Consulting specializes in systems approaches to evaluation as used in the South Dakota EPSCoR evaluation. LEAP helps nonprofits, foundations, public institutions and funders across the United States achieve greater impact through meaningful evaluations and strategic support. We are social change strategists who offer evaluation, systems, placemaking, and community engagement expertise in a variety of formats. Learn more about our areas of support here. Want to get in touch about your program or next project? Click here.
1, 2, 3 http://orsimpact.com/DirectoryAttachments/10262018_111513_477_CI_Study_Report_10-26-2018.pdf