The Power of the Context Map: Designing Realistic Outcome Evaluation Strategies and Other Unanticipated Benefits

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Evaluation and Program Planning

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Developing a feasible evaluation plan is challenging when multiple activities, often sponsored by multiple agencies, work together toward a common goal. Often, resources are limited and not every agency's interest can be represented in the final evaluation plan. The article illustrates how the Antecedent Target Measurement (ATM) approach to logic modeling was adapted to meet this challenge. The key adaptation is the context map generated in the first step of the ATM approach. The context map makes visually explicit many of the underlying conditions contributing to a problem as possible. The article also shares how a prioritization matrix can assist the evaluator in filtering through the context map to prioritize the outcomes to be included in the final evaluation plan as well as creating realistic outcomes. This transparent prioritization process can be especially helpful in managing evaluation expectations of multiple agencies with competing interests. Additional strategic planning benefits of the context map include pinpointing redundancies caused by overlapping collaborative efforts, identifying gaps in coverage, and assisting the coordination of multiple stakeholders.