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Importance of qualitative methods in Social Program Evaluation

Kannan, Srinivasan (2015): Importance of qualitative methods in Social Program Evaluation.

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Social Program Evaluation (SPE) is the method and tool to address policy questions of diverse social actors to improve services (Greene, 2003). In India, the development programs are planned mostly using quantitative indicators. For instance, health and medical professionals prefer quantitative indicators such as, morbidity, mortality, prevalence, and incidence and so on. This undermines the qualitative aspects. There are instances in which combination of quantitative and qualitative are accepted. From the beginning, health programs are implemented based on quantified indicators by the planners. Many at times this leads to shift in the focus from the program objectives to the outcomes which are defined well in terms of quantified indicators. In this paper, author shares his experiences from his evaluation studies in the health and other development sectors. He is also attempting to suggest ways of developing qualitative indictors, which could be used for program planning. A study on assessment of menstrual hygiene practices in a district in India gave a greater insight on the program. The findings had more important program details than the quantified indicators could provide. Things such as socio cultural factors affecting menstrual hygiene practices are more important than the traditional quantitative indicators such as usage, coverage and so on. Similarly, human factors were found to be more important in another study on health system preparedness during natural disasters. Qualitative methods have opened many of the latent aspects of the programs which were unanticipated by any policy maker. The paper also discusses the limitations of social and health programs only dependent on quantitative methods by ignoring qualitative aspects.

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