Introduction Ideally, program and/or policy interventions must seek to address an identified challenge/gap in a given sector/segment of society (McDavid & Hawthorn, 2013). To enable stakeholders make informed decisions on what program/policy choices to make there is the need for information and such information can be gathered through a process known as evaluation – the outcome of an evaluation process creates/provides information and this information influences policy choices and/or programmatic interventions (McDavid & Hawthorn, 2013). In this post, I briefly describe the Mentoring Gang Involved-Youth Project with is being implemented by Roca Inc, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit working with young male adults from Boston, Chelsea, and Springfield Massachusetts. I also explain the type of evaluation employed in evaluating the Project and the kind of data used for the evaluation and I indicate whether comparisons were used. Description of the project According to the Justice Center: Council of State Governments (2012), the Mentoring-gang Involved-Youth Project, targets young male adults between the ages of 17 and 24 who are suffering from substance abuse and are in detention. The primary objective of the Project is to reduce incarceration rates and enhance the ability of participants to retain employment (Roca, 2016). Under the Project, it is recognized that participants lack healthy relationships that will help them say away from criminal and/or antisocial behavior hence under the program three types of mentoring support are offered (Justice Center: Council of State Governments, 2012). The Justice Center: Council of State Governments (2012) informs its readers that mentoring support, under the Project, extends to supporting participants get jobs and remain employed. The project proceeds under the philosophy that keeping participants occurred by positive activities steers them away from antisocial criminal behavior (Justice Center: Council of State Governments, 2012). Some of the mentors under the Project have served jail time and successfully reintegrated into the community and are deemed to be role models hence using them to mentor participants is seen as offering participants with real life examples of persons who were just like them and have managed to emancipate themselves from the hands of criminal/antisocial conduct and are living better lives. Cognitive-restructuring is the objective of the Project and it seeks to achieve this through skills development and behavioral change for/of participants (Roca, 2016). Where this Project successfully restructures the cognitive behavior of participants and they acquire skills and get employment, their economic situation will change and this will translate into economic development. According to Roca (2016) the Project runs for four years – the first two years focus on inculcating into participants behavioral change whilst the remaining period focuses on sustaining the positive change in behavior that the first 2 years have engendered in the participant. To track the performance of the Project, the Project has an evaluation mechanism built into it (Roca, 2016). Explanation of the type of evaluation employed in the case I am of the opinion that, the Project used both needs assessment and summative evaluation. McDavid & Hawthorn (2013) posit that the process of identifying gaps and hence gathering evidence, to inform policy or programmatic choices by decision makers is referred to, as needs assessment. It is evident from page 3 of Roca’s 2016 report on the Project that an assessment tool is used by Roca to identify participants’ risk factors and this informs the tailoring of interventions to assist them. As previously noted, the Project also used a summative evaluation. McDavid & Hawthorn (2013) relying on a definition provided by Scriven (1996) assert that summative evaluation has one principal goal i.e. to ascertain whether the project has met its objectives. It therefore occurs during the post implementation phase of the project (Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. 2010). A close review of Roca’s 2016 report on the Project leaves one in no doubt that the report does not only demonstrate that is has met is objective but it also effectively sets the stage for decision making by Roca to continue implementing the project. Importantly, the content of the report would potentially attract funding for further implementation of the Project. Furthermore, the Project’s report states that the Project has data tracking and performance management mechanisms/processes built into it (Roca, 2016) – this is further demonstration that a summative evaluation is used for the Project’s evaluation. Describe the type of data used As earlier noted, data used for the Project and its report were gathered through a needs assessment process and a summative evaluation. According to Roca (2016) it used its assessment tool to identify the factors that make participants prone to “long term incarcerations and disconnection from employment/education” (p.3) – these factors include behavior that increase the likelihood of incarceration, present and past involvement in criminal conduct, level of education and employment history – these are what is used to generate data for policy making and programming. Whether comparisons were employed Yes, comparisons were employed. For instance on page 1 of Roca’s 2016 report on the Project under discussion, reference is make to the number of participants in the Project in comparison to the previous fiscal year. There is also data that evidences the number of participants coming from each of the geographical areas covered by the Project. Conclusion From the foregoing, it is evident that data is a condition precedent for formulating, implementing and reporting on every project. To generate this data, an evaluation of the project and/or a needs assessment have to be conducted. I am of the view that how the data is generated and the nature of the data generated are as important as the accuracy of the data generated. Reference Justice Center: The Council of State Governments. (2012). Mentoring gang-involved youth: How Roca, Inc. combines mentoring and services in a high-risk intervention model. Retrieved from http://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/posts/mentoring-gang-involved-youth-how-roca-inc-combines-mentoring-and-services-in-a-high-risk-intervention-model/ McDavid, J. C., Huse, I., & Hawthorn, L. R. L. (2013). Program evaluation and performance measurement: An introduction to practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. (2010). The program manager’s guide to evaluation (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_16304483_1&content_id=_42992485_1 Roca (2016), Roca’s high risk young men fiscal year 2016 performance benchmark and outcomes report. Retrieved from http://rocainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/fy16-young-men-outcomes-report.pdf
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