Most HIV prevention service providers conduct evaluation and data collection activities on a regular basis, although they may not consider it evaluation. Writing case notes during a prevention case management session, discussing client feedback on program services, watching needle exchange in action, taking notes at staff meetings: these are all examples of “informal” data collection that happen every day. Evaluation provides systems for collecting data, and then helps providers make sense of the data they collect so that they can use it in their work. Evaluation can help providers increase their knowledge, better understand the populations they serve, improve programs and make decisions.
Evaluation is a way to identify program strengths and areas for improvement. It is a way for service providers to be responsible to the communities in which they work, to show accountability to funders, and to ensure that programs have the intended result.