Responding to the coronavirus pandemic: Documentation tips for monitoring and evaluation

12 June 2020

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Documenting decision making around program or service changes will assist you in monitoring or evaluating your service delivery during the pandemic.

This article is part of a series on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. See the other articles on Conducting a needs assessment in a time of rapid change and Assessing rapid service changes.

This short article is for anyone who is delivering, or planning to deliver, a program or service modified in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The article provides prompts for documenting decision making around program or service changes, and outlines how this may assist you in monitoring or evaluating your service delivery during this time.

Clear documentation of your service delivery changes during your response to the pandemic can:

  • ensure shared understanding and expectations of your program and services; including current outcomes, development and delivery
  • help you to communicate your current program barriers, adaptions or solutions to your funders
  • provide a record of changes that can be used to assist in both evaluation activities and in further decision making.

Why you should document changes to your service or program

Responding to the needs of your community during a time of rapid change may require ongoing changes to your service. Documenting these changes means that you can show your organisation that you are continuing to provide appropriate services and meet funding requirements. It can also help you to monitor your new program or service to ensure it has been effectively implemented and meets community needs.

If you are undertaking an evaluation, or routinely collect service or client outcomes data, changes to your service delivery can also affect your results. Accurate documentation of your planning and decision making will help you to know if you are still collecting the right data for evaluation or for effective decision making.

How to start your documentation

To start, you could sit down with your program or service team and other decision makers to discuss how you are changing your program or service implementation. Update any existing implementation and evaluation plans and record the new actions you have committed to, the resources required, who is responsible for making these changes and when they need to be completed. Consider whether the existing data collections can still be used and how they might be affected by the current situation.

Make sure you are clear on any reporting or evaluation requirements that you might have for your program and service. Are you required to produce an evaluation report or communicate your program and service changes and impacts to particular stakeholders? What would this product look like and are there any key bits of data you need to collect or document to achieve this final product?

Document the new why, what, who, how and when

This template aims to help you step through a process for documenting program or service adaptations. It is intended to help with documenting changes for the purpose of ongoing evaluation and monitoring but can also be used for more general documentation of service changes. This simple aid is meant to act as a prompt for your thinking and should not limit you from documenting specific elements that may be relevant for your program and service.

You do not need to complete all sections of this template. You may want to adapt it, removing or adding questions to capture your unique program, service offering or context of practice. The first question provides an example answer to help guide your thinking.

Template for documenting program/service adaptations
Question to consider Your service or program response Who is responsible? Time frame or urgency
Why you are making changes?
Have you seen a changing need in your community? You may want to consider a rapid  needs assessment. For example: Yes, face-to-face parenting group no longer possible but connection to other parents still needed. What evidence can we find for effectiveness of online parenting groups? Program facilitator Within next two weeks
Is the mode of delivery of your current service no longer possible?      
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your ability to deliver this activity?      
What changes have been made?
What changes to the program/delivery have you made (or are thinking of making)?      
How do you expect the changes will affect your ability to meet program goals/outcomes?       
Give a brief description of your modified program/activity/deliverable including key goals/outcomes (consider doing a diary of when the changes occurred – this may help you understand any odd or unexpected results in your data when you look back over time)      
Can you modify an existing program logic or theory of change to reflect the change?      
How will changes be made?
What resources are needed to make these changes?      
Is there an existing evidence base, or practice guidelines to support your new program or service delivery?      
Preparing to evaluate or measure the impact of your changes
How do you expect the changes will affect your ability to meet program goals/outcomes?       
Do you expect anything about delivery to get harder/easier?      
Up to this point, how have you been measuring program activity and success?      
Will the measurements be affected by the coronavirus pandemic changes?      
Do you need to consider different ways to measure program activity/outcomes?      
How will you evaluate any program improvements or unanticipated outcomes found through coronavirus pandemic changes?      
What types of data might you need to collect to evaluate your program or service changes?      
Do you anticipate any of these changes becoming permanent?      

Next steps

After you have completed the template, discuss your responses with your colleagues and decide when to revisit this documentation to monitor your progress. This discussion can also be used to ensure that everyone is clear on their tasks and the time frames for completion. The document can also be used for future planning, evaluation and monitoring so store it appropriately so it can be revisited when needed.

Additional resources from the Expert Panel

Need help with a program plan or evaluation? If you are funded under the Families and Children (FaC) Activity, AIFS can provide you with time-limited support for tasks such as developing a program logic or preparing for an evaluation. Contact the Expert Panel Project team for free advice and support.

Bibliography

  • Australian Institute of Family Studies. (2019). Implementation in action: A guide to implementing evidence-informed programs and practices.Retrieved from aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/guidelines/implementation-action
  • Macfarlan, A. (2020). Adapting evaluation in the time of COVID-19 - Part 1: MANAGE. Better Evaluation. Retrieved from www.betterevaluation.org/en/blog/adapting-evaluation-time-covid-1.9-part-1-manage#6
  • Owen, J. M., & Rogers, P. (1999). Program evaluation: Forms and approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Patton, M. Q. (2018). Principles-focused evaluation: The GUIDE. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Patton, M. Q. (2020). evaluation implications of the coronavirus global health pandemic emergency. Retrieved from bluemarbleeval.org/latest/evaluation-implications-coronavirus-global-health-pandemic-emergency

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Featured image: © GettyImages/Morsa Images

Author

Eleanor Kerdo

Eleanor is a Senior Researcher who started with AIFs in 2019. Eleanor has an expertise in person and family centred participatory evaluation and consultation and has a background in health policy. Eleanor has worked in community health, advocacy and consumer consultation and social research.
Eleanor Kerdo

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Need some help?

Need help with a program plan or evaluation?

If you are funded under the Families and Children (FaC) Activity, AIFS can provide you with time-limited support for tasks such as developing a program logic or preparing for an evaluation

Contact the Expert Panel Project team  for free advice and support.