Step 1: Identifying the object of evaluation

The first step of the evaluation process is to identify the object of evaluation. For this purpose, a short written description of the object to be evaluated must be drafted. This description must be formulated in a way that is also comprehensible to outsiders. Relevant items to be included in this description are, for example, the name of the object of evaluation, the managers responsible for it, the employees taking part in it, the goals, scientific references, the contents or topics, the elements, methods, scope, available resources, key figures, past developments, etc.

Baum im Apfel

When identifying the object of evaluation, clarification of its intended goals is particularly important, since attainment of these goals should be examined in the evaluation. The three-tiered system of goals allows goals to be clarified by placing them into macro, meso and micro categories. The overarching goal (macro-goal) reflects the basic orientation and longer-term focus. This macro-goal is then chunked down into a series of intermediate aims (meso-aims) that are further chunked down into a series of well-defined short-term objectives (micro-objectives). Each micro-objective is pursued with a clear understanding of the desired results to be achieved from each set of action steps (i.e. the intervention). Each micro-objective is concrete, verifiable, time-bound and realistic. In addition to clarifying intended goals, aims and objectives, it is also important to anticipate potential unintended and undesired consequences.

For complex objects of evaluation, textual-visual representations in the form of a ‘logic model’ can be helpful, showing the main elements of the object of evaluation and how they relate to one another. Generally speaking, it is important at this stage to record at least the current situation (status quo), the interventions and the intended goals/results. The ‘programme tree’ is a particularly clear logic model that enables differentiation between the conditions (e.g. context, resources), the plan (the concept and corresponding goals), implementation (the specific activities) and the expected and unexpected results of the given object of evaluation.

The objects of evaluation are usually specific projects, but can also be packages of measures, programmes and even entire organisations.

* Source: Univation - Institut für Evaluation 2016; adaptierte Fassung

In this illustrative picture story, a farmer wants to learn more about a certain variety of apple and has therefore commissioned an evaluation. At first glance, this is a simple object of evaluation. Upon closer inspection, however, it is not so simple: this apple symbolises a large number of apples that one might find in a basket, on a pallet, or in a truckload. This apple has grown on a tree, which in turn stands on a plot of land, perhaps an apple grove or a large orchard. The apple therefore grows in a specific environment (context), which has certain characteristics (for example, in terms of biodiversity). Apples are also cultivated within a certain organisational structure, which can be a small farm or a large, internationally active public limited company (structure).

Cultivation requires resources such as water for irrigation, pesticides and human labour (input). It also requires seeds or cuttings from which the apple tree grows. Through planting, care and pruning (activities/interventions), it is hoped that satisfactory yields justifying the inputs will be obtained in the form of an apple harvest (outputs). The processing or direct consumption of apples satisfies basic human needs. The apples are pleasing to the eye and the apple may help to improve people’s health (outcomes). However, unforeseen side effects can also occur. For example, there could be a negative impact on biodiversity or allergic reactions.