Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monitoring and Evaluating the Removal of FORCE

Through the proposed plan of improving job training and adequately assessing and ensuring proper levels of education, we proposed that the “force to work” would be lifted off of workers’ shoulders and that they would become self-motivated to work. Workers would see that they are valued and are heard. This all sounds great, but in order to assess whether or not these measures are effective, we need to look at some ways in which we can monitor and evaluate the participants’ satisfaction levels with the program and, in turn, how well the program is working towards removing “force” and preparing workers sufficiently. The ways in which this could be performed are through the examination of felt, normative, expressed, and comparative needs; primary surveys; and informal and group techniques. These methods of needs assessment, evaluation, and process evaluation would provide us with a thorough understanding of how well our proposed alternative policy response regarding job training, education, and the removal of force was working in practice.

Felt needs, or the needs that the workers themselves expressed, would be assessed through collaborative discourse with employers and fellow employees. Normative needs, or the needs that are perceived by “experts” such as employers and policy-makers, and Expressed needs, or the needs identified by service agencies, are other important perspectives that contribute to participants’ attitudes towards working, and could also be assessed and explored through collaborative group discourse. All involved parties coming together to explain their own views and to understand others’ views would lead to an overall examination of these three types of needs. Group discussions that identify these needs would be conducted before and during the implementation of our policy response in order to get an accurate work-in-progress report. The generalization that is involved in Comparative needs is another important aspect necessary to explore because, as we have discussed in many previous posts, the generalization of Workfare participants or anyone for that matter is oppressive. Ignoring individual differences that occur from one person to the next oppresses people’s individuality and uniqueness and oppresses their very being. Comparative needs could be assessed by examining existing literature and statistics relating to Workfare programs and other social assistance programs in order to gain an understanding of how social assistance recipients have been generalized as a population in the past and present. Learning ways to overcome generalizations and value each worker’s specific situation and social location (by incorporating their own voices) would create an interesting and different perspective because it would let go of stereotypes and make way for new ways of perceiving and assisting social assistance recipients.

Primary surveys could assess the needs of workers on social assistance. Using random sampling from a large population of working social assistance recipients we could acquire a sufficiently varied sample to participate in our survey. These surveys would be qualitative and consist mainly of open-ended questions that would aim to attain the most detailed and subjective material from workers as possible. The subjectivity of each respondent’s survey is key because our approach is all about hearing each and every one of their individual voices. Primary surveys distributed to participants would broadly cover how well the program was working in terms of increasing participants’ levels of satisfaction on several scales, such as job satisfaction, living arrangement satisfaction, opportunities for growth and development satisfaction, and so on. These quantitative and numeric scales would be supported by qualitative questions that would require respondents to elaborate on the reasons for their levels of satisfaction, what could be done to increase those levels, and what is being done currently in the program that they feel is working well. Primary surveys would generate a lot of discussion from both participants and employers, just as improved job training methods would, and would therefore increase employer-employee coherence as well as increasing employer and employee satisfaction with the job and quality of work. Primary surveys would be distributed after approximately one year from the program’s commencement in order to give the program time to get started and to allow for people to get accustomed to the program. Distributing these surveys every other year would ensure that the program was meeting participants’ changing demands and needs and continually striving for relevance as things change.

Informal and group techniques are also very relevant in the evaluation of our program because it again focuses on qualitative information. Primary surveys are able to gather both qualitative and quantitative information, which is vital because quantitative data is especially useful for presenting findings and oftentimes quantitative data is more appealing to the general public. Informal and group techniques focus only on qualitative information and this appeals to us as program developers because the improved job training, proper educational assessment, and removal of force are carried out through qualitative techniques. What better way to assess qualitative techniques of program alteration than by evaluating them using qualitative assessments? The way we would carry out this aspect of program evaluation and monitoring is that we would bring in a social planner to work with the program participants directly from a “peer” perspective. The collaboration with a social planner is intended to minimize the level of discomfort that participants would have in discourse with an “expert”. This minimization of discomfort takes place through bringing the social planner to the same level as participants in order to promote a participatory approach to program development and maintenance. Through focus groups that participants would participate in on a voluntary basis, qualitative information would be gathered, recorded, and analyzed regarding ways that the program is working and ways in which it could improve. These findings would then be shared in employer forums that would keep employers participating in the program up to date with current data.

Although many ways to evaluate and monitor our program’s success could be applied, in the interest of space we will conclude this section here. The main point of this post is that in order to attain our goal of transitioning those on social assistance out of poverty we have identified objectives to help us reach our goal, as well as implementation plans for these objectives; the operation of these objectives must be evaluated in order to ensure that the program’s objectives are being met, are valuable to participants, and that the program is, in fact, successful in transitioning social assistance recipients out of poverty. In terms of improved job training, proper educational assessment, and the removal of force to work, we have proposed that primary surveys and informal and group techniques be used to carry out this evaluation. The identification and deconstruction of felt needs, normative needs, expressed needs, and comparative needs contributes to successful program evaluation as well because they help pinpoint the needs that the program should be addressing. The sharing of findings that arise from our evaluation would be shared publicly through public forums and perhaps through publication. It is important to include not only participants in the program but also to hear the voices of the general public as well, and by publicly examining the evaluation of our program these voices would be heard.

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