Evaluation specialist helps CFCA explore outcomes
May 22, 2012
Melissa Velazquez has been with CFCA since 2008. She assumed the role of evaluation specialist in 2009 to support CFCA's growing interest and emphasis in outcome measurement as a tool for learning and program improvement.
Her role focuses on building the capacity of the international staff to evaluate CFCA programs and communicate their results. In addition, Velazquez designs and implements evaluations across countries and regions that can answer key organizational questions.
Melissa Velazquez assumed the role of evaluation specialist in 2009
to support CFCA's growing interest and emphasis in outcome
measurement as a tool for learning and program improvement.
Velazquez graduated from the University of Kansas with a master's in Latin American studies with an emphasis in urban and cultural geography.
Q. What is program evaluation and what are outcomes?
A. Program evaluation is simply the organized collection of information to determine if what a program sets out to change is really changing.
And outcomes are the changes or results, such as the quality of sponsored members’ lives as a result of the CFCA program.
Q. What types of evaluations are taking place around the world?
A. Currently we have multiple CFCA projects in regions across the world that have identified key questions about their programs and how they benefit sponsored members and their families.
They are now conducting evaluations to answer these questions, ranging in subject from education support, effectiveness of capacity building efforts and empowerment of loan recipients, to food security.
CFCA headquarters is also initiating evaluations related to global questions, such as the educational attainment of sponsored members.
Q. What are you learning about CFCA’s Hope for a Family program and the families it serves?
A. CFCA is home to immense diversity and creativity of individuals and programs. Through small groups and personalized approaches, sponsored members and their families can have a strong voice to shape effective programs.
Outcome measurement is becoming a tool for both local staffs and families to better define what an effective program looks like.
I have been surprised many times by the outcomes identified and measured by sponsored members and staff, such as increased accountability and financial literacy. Each evaluation report is a new window for me into understanding the values and ingenuity of families in the CFCA program.
Q. How can CFCA benefit from these evaluations?
A. All members of the CFCA community can really benefit from the evaluations. Sponsored members and their families can participate firsthand in data collection that can tell their collective story. Credible data can improve decision-making for families and communities taking leadership in their own development.
Project staff members are also gaining a credible way to measure the outcomes of their programs so that they can really see what works in their context and how to make informed choices in partnership with families.
At the organizational level we are learning how policy and programs really effect change and how to guide and invest resources. As the body of information on outcomes grows, sponsors and potential sponsors will benefit from clear and specific data about the change happening in the world as a result of their partnership with CFCA.
Q. What are the long-term goals for CFCA’s outcome evaluation?
A. Many CFCA families and staff members, both in our projects around the world and at our headquarters, are just now beginning to build their skills in credible, useful evaluation methods and in utilizing the data to make positive program improvements. I am excited to see this capacity grow and fundamentally change how CFCA evolves in the future.
Our goal is to become a learning organization that can measure and share outcomes, identify and learn from failures and confidently celebrate achievements.