Catalyst - Fall 2020 Vol 3 No 1 - Page 5

“Good Enough” Evaluation by Samantha Bourque Tucker A few months ago, when COVID-19 went from an epidemic to a pandemic, I reached out to a grantee to see how they were doing in light of the situation. This organization provides uninsured individuals with free primary and specialty healthcare with an emphasis on care for patients with chronic conditions, serving as a medical home to over 850 people. The Executive Director told me they had to cancel their largest fundraising event of the year that supports most of their administrative costs. The ED continued noting they are doing their very best to provide services via telemedicine and carry out the grant objectives outlined in their grant agreement, logic model, and evaluation plan. As Healthcare Georgia Foundation’s internal evaluation manager, of course I had already thought about how our recently awarded grantees were going to meet their grant objectives this year due to the life-changing virus. But I truly wanted to know how their organization, staff and volunteers were doing – mentally, physically, emotionally. Almost all the nonprofits the Foundation works with provide direct care and services to individuals, where the 6-foot rule can’t apply, or at least didn’t up until this point. The last thing these nonprofits are thinking about is if they are implementing programs according to their logic model, asking appropriate evaluation questions, or measuring the right indicators. They can’t focus on the metrics and data that I look for in their progress or final reports. And that’s okay. That’s good enough. We know, based on the case statements that were submitted, our grantees will do a “good enough” evaluation. Good enough should not be interpreted as meaning “merely good” or as implying mediocrity; it has to do with making rational and defensible choices. The “good enough” approach is a way to drive ongoing improvement and achieve excellence by progressively meeting, challenging, and raising responses to difficult problems, as opposed to driving towards an illusion of perfection (*Groundwater-Smith, 2011, p 12). Peter Rossi calls it a “good enough” rule when the evaluator should choose the strongest possible design after having taken into account the potential importance of the results, the practicality and feasibility of each design, and the probability that the design chosen will produce useful and credible results. Michael Quinn Patton, an evaluation guru, suggests that some data to support quick decisions when they are made is better than data that are too little and too late. Most of the time decision-making isn’t about yes or no, “This places ‘rigor’ in the context of crisis conditions, acknowledging uncertainty, emergence and urgency.” Healthcare Georgia Foundation is learning to adapt and be flexible. We are changing our grantmaking, relaxing our reporting requirements, and not asking for evaluation plans, logic models, or 10% of their budget towards evaluation. Our grantees are also learning, adapting, and showing up with at least a sense of the decision that seems most supported by the information they have at hand. The Foundation trusts that at this time our grantees and their internal or external evaluators will do what’s best for their programs and interventions. The evaluation may not be perfect – it could be messy and there might be inconsistent data, but that’s good enough. These organizations are saving lives, serving the most vulnerable populations, and putting their own lives at risk. Let’s not forget that during this pandemic and these uncertain times, we are all human – it’s okay to be scared, have anxiety, and we should be easy on ourselves as we all go through this together. What we are all doing to survive and thrive is not only good enough, but it is more than e n o u g h . *Groundwater-Smith, S. (2011) Ethical Issues and Practitioner Inquiry. Keynote address to NZCARN symposium, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1st July, 2011 5