Module 3 – Programs


Performance Practice Learning Module

How well-designed and well-implemented are your programs? Get together to make them even better.

If you need to define, measure, and produce better outcomes, this module helps you take the right next steps for your organization. It addresses program design within a larger context, the evidence base, and feedback from beneficiaries.

Proof points include using the right data to support high-quality implementation, building strong client relationships (for direct-service organizations), and resisting the temptation to introduce practices or programs that don’t align with the organization’s mission. Executive leadership, program directors, managers, and staff can work through this module together to make progress in the quest for better results.


User Guide

Introduction to the Performance Practice, acknowledgments, application, and development methodology

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Use this worksheet to complete the self-assessment.

Download File


Reporting App

The reporting app compiles your results - no manual aggregation required!

Windows Instructions
Windows Reporting App

MacOS Instructions
MacOS App, up to v10.12/Sierra
MacOS App, v10.13+/High Sierra

Watch: Reporting App Guide

Programs Principles and Proof Points

Principle 3.1:  Leaders and managers are clear on the target population or audience they serve and are passionate about serving them.

3.1.1:  My organization has defined and made clear to all staff our target population (clients at the core of our mission with whom we work to achieve measurable outcomes) and/or our target audience (groups we need to influence if we are to create our intended knowledge, attitude, behavior, or policy change).

3.1.2:  My organization collects data aligned with the criteria for our target population or audience and uses those data as the basis for determining whom we will serve or seek to influence.

3.1.3:  My organization hires selectively for those who have a deep-rooted understanding of and connection with the people and causes we serve and also cultivates this understanding and connection through ongoing staff-development experiences.

Principle 3.2:  Leaders and managers base the design of their programs and strategies on a sound analysis of the issues, insights from intended beneficiaries, and evidence-informed assumptions about how the organization’s activities can lead to the desired change (often referred to as a “theory of change”).

3.2.1:  My organization has assembled and regularly reviews the best available evidence as part of developing its key programs and strategies. (For service organizations, the continuum of evidence usually consists of the following, from weakest to strongest: 1) knowledge that credible practitioners have accumulated over time; 2) knowledge that has been developed by social researchers studying a similar target population; 3) research borrowed from other, similar programs that have benefited from a rigorous impact evaluation; and 4) research on the organization’s program(s) validated through the use of rigorous impact evaluations.)

3.2.2:  My organization actively seeks feedback from members of our target population or target audience—those closest to the problems we’re addressing—and uses this information to help us design and improve our programs and strategies.

3.2.3:  My organization has a theory of change that includes a target population/audience, a detailed service/program model, and outcomes with indicators.

3.2.4:  My organization’s theory of change is:

  • plausible (makes sense to the informed reviewer)
  • doable (can be executed with available resources)
  • measurable (key elements can be monitored using qualitative and quantitative data)
  • testable (program model or advocacy strategies are codified in ways that allow for internal monitoring and external evaluation)
  • socially significant (success would have high value for our target population or cause).

3.2.5:  My organization has integrated our theory of change into our operational DNA. (Everyone understands it, can articulate it, and knows how to contribute to its execution.)

Principle 3.3:  Leaders and managers design programs with careful attention to the larger ecosystem in which they operate, including racial, cultural, geographic, historical, and political dynamics.

3.3.1:  My organization invests time and other resources to study the complex local dynamics that affect our ability to achieve measurable outcomes for our target population or influence our target audiences. (Depending on the type of organization, this could include identifying key influencers/power centers in a community, studying the historical roots underlying present-day attitudes, or mapping relevant programs or efforts engaging the same population or audience.)

3.3.2:  My organization intentionally and routinely works to build strong relationships with other organizations and influencers in our community whose actions and decisions affect our target population or audience.

3.3.3:  My organization has staffed its programs with people who, based on their professional and life experiences, are skilled in navigating local dynamics and building relationships with relevant partners.

Principle 3.4:  Leaders and managers implement their programs in a consistently high-quality manner. They view collecting and using data as part and parcel of implementing high-quality programs.

3.4.1:  My organization’s program teams implement our services based on codified program models that address:

  • theoretical principles
  • intended outputs and outcomes
  • phasing, dosage, and duration of activities
  • professional requirements for staff.

3.4.2:  My organization holds an individual or team accountable for monitoring whether we are implementing our programs with fidelity.

Principle 3.5:  Leaders and managers do a good job of recruiting, retaining, motivating, listening to, and learning from their participants and intended beneficiaries.

3.5.1:  My organization is relentless about recruiting and enrolling people in our target population, helping them stay engaged until they achieve the intended outcomes, and learning why some drop out despite our best efforts to retain them.

Principle 3.6:  In the case of direct-service organizations, leaders and managers invest in building strong relationships between staff and participants, because this relationship may be the single biggest determinant of whether participants will stay engaged in programming and thereby achieve the desired results.

3.6.1:  My organization systematically uses data on staff-participant relationships to inform staff recruitment, training, coaching, and development—as well as to drive program improvement.

Principle 3.7:  Leaders and managers guard against the temptation to veer off course in search of numbers that look good in marketing materials or reports to funders.

3.7.1:  My organization has put checks and balances in place to ensure that the organization does not engage in corner-cutting measures (e.g., cherry-picking participants, biasing data) in pursuit of rosy results.

3.7.2:  My organization has put checks and balances in place to protect against” mission creep”—chasing funding opportunities by tacking on new programs that stretch beyond our core purpose.

Download Principles & Proof Points for Programs

Sample Reports

With the free reporting app, you can create a report like the sample below in minutes. To create your own report, you will first need to collect your data. Go to any of the modules to get started.

The Summary report shows the distribution of ratings for each proof point, gives a picture of the level of consensus, and opens the door to productive conversations about ways to move forward.

For a thorough understanding of individual perspectives, drill down to see each respondent’s ratings and comments per proof point.

Programs Module Principles & Proof Points
Principles and proof points for this module to provide overall perspective and context before completing the Workbook

Programs Module Worksheet
File to use to complete the self-assessment, includes instructions; open on laptop/desktop rather than mobile device

User Guide
Introduction to the Performance Practice, acknowledgments, application, and development methodology

Reporting App Downloads
The reporting app compiles data from all the worksheets into one spreadsheet.
Reporting App: Windows
Reporting App: MacOS (v10.13 + newer)
Reporting App: MacOS (v10.12 + older)

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