Why Evaluate?

Providing mental health and addictions services on campus is meaningful and complex work that can have considerable impact on your student population. Evaluation is an opportunity for you to learn more about the best way to provide the programs and services you do. Through evaluation you can tell the story of your impact, enhance your services and benefit your work in practical ways:

Trust, Transparency and Accountability To Your Stakeholders

Building structured feedback mechanisms into your service or initiative sends students the message that you are interested in what they have to say and offers a transparent process for them to share their thoughts and feedback on the supports they receive. For example, always having an evaluation form available at the end of a mental health workshop, allowing time for students to complete evaluation forms and offering contact information for follow-up questions are all signs that you care about what students experience when they come to you, and that you want to always strive to better meet their needs.

Evaluations offer a process for listening and learning. And, acting on what you learn through service improvements also builds accountability. Evaluations can help you stay accountable to stated objectives or explain changes in service offerings. In turn, this allows you to build trust with others on your campus, funders, partners and most importantly, your student population.

Evidence-Based Improvements to Programs and Services

What you learn from evaluating your service or initiative can lead to practical improvements that are based in evidence sourced directly from your target group. Evaluations can help assess whether you are meeting your stated goals for the work you do, reaching identified targets or using an appropriate service model for the students you serve. In this way, the evidence you gather to improve what you are doing is relevant, usable and tailored to your context. Evaluating your work can also illuminate outcomes that you weren’t expecting and at times, challenge some of the basic assumptions about your student population that you might be making when you plan services. All of this can improve your program, and helps others improve their work as well. You build your capacity and the capacity of similar services when you engage in evaluation and when you share your learnings with others.

Demonstrated Effectiveness to Funders and Others

The data collected and analyzed through evaluation serves to drive the future sustainability or growth of your program. Your data can help make a case for the allocation of additional resources and/or investments in other mental health work on your campuses (or even other campuses). Sometimes, demonstrating certain outputs and outcomes is a requirement of the funder, or of an ethics review process. Demonstrating the value of your work also adds to the credibility of your service model and can lead to beneficial partnerships and collaborations. For example, academic partners can lend their research expertise; partners in healthcare can strengthen service and system coordination leading to stronger referrals for students; and/or media partners can help build effective awareness campaigns or communication materials.

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