Program evaluation entails using social research methods in a systematic way to investigate the usefulness of social invention programs that will adopt to political and company’s’ environments are designed to form social action to improve social conditions. Social programs are welfare programs designed to improve human conditions rather than having efforts directed towards increasing profits, influence and power. Example of social programs are like the one that was in many major cities in the U.S where funds were provided by a large private foundation to establish community health centers in low-income areas. Advocates of school vouchers initiated a program in New York City that was privately funded to help poor families with children in the first three grades of disadvantaged public schools.
In the late 1930’s federal expenditure for social science research was ranging from $40 to $50 million as compared to large figures today. In 1930’s human services grew at a rapid pace with the end of the great depression. Concepts and procedures for planning, budgetary, quality control and accountability were embraced. AS government became complex and technical there was need to have people with technical skills hence many graduate schools of management, public health and social work began programs to train students for government positions and schools with public administration names were expanded or established.
The defining characteristics of a program evaluation are; Application of social methods: evaluation concept entails describing the performance of the company under evaluation and criteria for judging standards. There is the need to construct a valid description of program performance by the program evaluator that permits incisive comparison with applicable criteria. For purposes of constructing good factual descriptions of social phenomena, social methods of research and accompanying methodological standards of quality have been developed. The effectiveness of social programs: the principle reason for existence of social programs is to do good by improving a social condition. The quality of a program’s performance need to be put under evaluation to judge its effectiveness in producing social benefits. Adapting evaluation to the political and organizational context: evaluators must tailor the initial evaluation plan to the particular program and if circumstances change revise and modify tithe form and scope depends on its purposes, nature of the program on evaluation, audience, political and organizational context within which the evaluation is conducted. The evaluation must be tailored to the organizational make-up of the program. Informing social action to improve social condition: an evaluation addresses the audience with the potential of decision making and actionable towards the evaluation results. They may also have social action purposes that are beyond those of the particular program being evaluated. A form of evaluation research is that which is conducted on demonstration programs where social intervention projects are designed and implemented explicitly to test the value of an innovative concept.
Complicating factors in evaluation research such as dilemmas in a balancing act between competing forces. This emerges from the conflict between requirements of systematic inquiry and data collection associated with evaluation research and the organizational imperatives of the social program devoted to delivering services and important activities. Volatility of social programs where priorities and responsibilities of organizations’ implementing a social program do change in many ways. The decision making, priorities, influence on different sponsors and stakeholders of social programs change with shifts in the political context and social trends. Scientific versus pragmatic evaluation postures that looks at evaluation as more of an art than science and need to be directed towards meeting needs of both stakeholder and people making decisions in the project while scientific studies strive to meet research standards. Diversity in evaluation outlooks and approaches in which evaluation practitioners come from different academic fields as well as professions with different orientations and methods. This mix has contributed to multiplicity of perspectives among evaluators. Solo practitioners have divergent views from tenured professor due to differences in a practitioner’s motivations and settings of their work.