The purpose of a NORC program is to bring about the changes that allow seniors to age well in their own communities. A well-designed evaluation helps a NORC program determine whether it is making a difference and accomplishing its intended goals.
Many program planners are unfamiliar with evaluation techniques, and even a bit intimidated by them. But an evaluation does not have to be extensive to show whether activities are benefiting the target population. It needs, instead, to be smart, strategic, and evidence-based.
NORC programs address complex issues, typically involving many interacting factors and multiple players. But each project that addresses these issues does not need to be complex, nor does its evaluation.
The approach to evaluation described here is not intended to assess the overall value of the NORC program model. Similarly, it should not be considered a global assessment of a given NORC program. The goal of evaluation is much simpler – to show that each project undertaken has value to the residents of the community. It pays to start thinking about how to demonstrate a positive effect from the earliest phase of design.
There are two common types of evaluation: process and outcome.
A process evaluation assesses the extent to which a project is operating as intended. (For guidelines on process evaluations, see Designing and Implementing a NORC Program, Guiding Principle #6.)
An outcome evaluation emphasizes the extent to which a specific project has achieved its objectives. That is the focus of the material in this section.
The roadmap presented here has been adapted for NORC programs from Framework for Program Evaluation, a well-known and tested model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Documenting and evaluating projects promote: