Using Evidence to Improve Social Program Effectiveness


Sunday, June 24, 2012 (All day) to Friday, June 29, 2012 (All day)


Harvard Kennedy School

Executive Education Course Chaired by Professors Dan Levy and Julie Wilson

About the Course
Managers of social programs are under increasing pressure to provide evidence about the effectiveness of their programs, but what constitutes reliable and valid evidence of effectiveness? How should an organization generate evidence about the effectiveness of social programs? What data should organizations collect, and how should managers use that data? How does one assess and apply evidence that others have generated about what works? Answering these questions can help managers lead their organizations to design and implement more effective social programs.

Using Evidence to Improving Social Program Effectiveness, a new Executive Education program at Harvard Kennedy School, will address the challenges that managers face in identifying useful strategies for assessing and improving social program effectiveness. The program will help managers become better commissioners and consumers of the evidence they need to make better decisions for their organization. 

The program will explore:

      • What are the big questions managers need to ask about the effectiveness of social programs in their organization?
      • How should managers decide what evidence needs to be gathered?
      • What kinds of evaluations and other forms of assessment need to be conducted?
      • Since evaluations can be expensive and time consuming, how should managers make decisions about which social programs to evaluate?
      • What are the key methods to evaluate the impact of a social program and when should each of them be used? 
      • What role do randomized experiments play in evaluating the impact of a program?
      • What data should be collected and when?
      • Does it all have to be numbers? How can managers make sense of mixed method evaluations and integrate quantitative and qualitative information to design and implement better social programs? 

The program considers a wide range of types of evaluation (including design, process, and impact evaluations) and a wide range of evaluation methods. The curriculum pays special attention to the use of evaluation results and other type of evidence in helping managers make better decisions about their social programs.