Meet John Ecker, COH’s Director of Evaluation
Meet John Ecker. He will be joining us in October as COH’s Director of Evaluation. Given that this is a new position at the Observatory, we thought it would be helpful for John to introduce himself and describe the skills he brings to the position. Take it away, John!
Hello! I am thrilled to join the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness as their Director of Evaluation. This is a new position at the Observatory and a very timely one, but I’ll get to that later. First things first, what led me to this position? Well, I recently received my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology (Social-Community stream) from the University of Ottawa, where I worked under the supervision of Dr. Tim Aubry. My doctoral research focused on experiences of community integration among homeless and vulnerably housed individuals and I also developed a secondary interest in LGBTQ youth and adult homelessness.
During my time in graduate school, I was introduced to the field of program evaluation and I quickly became immersed in it. I took every course offered on program evaluation theory and methods and, most importantly, was able to apply this knowledge while working on several innovative evaluations that targeted individuals experiencing homelessness. I served as a Research Assistant on projects that spanned across local, provincial, and national jurisdictions, most notably the At Home/Chez Soi project. Throughout these projects, I was involved in the various stages of the evaluation process – stakeholder engagement, logic model development, data collection, data analysis, report writing, and dissemination – which strengthened my understanding of what a thorough and meaningful evaluation entails.
At the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, I’ll be responsible for the planning and implementation of the Observatory’s evaluation activities. This is a new position at the Observatory and it demonstrates the demand for meaningful and sound program evaluations within the homeless service sector across Canada. But what is program evaluation? The Canadian Evaluation Society defines it as, “the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making.” So what does this mean for your agency? Well, the COH can help to answer evaluation questions like:
- What is the logic or theory of our program?
- Is the program reaching the right audience?
- How do clients of the program feel about the services they receive?
- What impact is the program having on the clients?
- How do staff members feel about the services they are delivering?
- How can the program be improved?
Answers to these questions help ensure that your program is operating in an effective and innovative matter. In fact, program evaluation is one of the pillars of innovation. New programs are often developed in response to an emerging challenge. For example, a community may conduct a needs assessment and discover an unmet need in the community. A program is then developed and implemented in the community. It is at this stage that evaluation comes in. Evaluation can help to see if the program was implemented smoothly and examine the outcomes of the program. New and innovative program will undoubtedly have challenges that they encounter and evaluation can help sort these issues out. Without utilizing these evaluation strategies, program modifications may not occur leading to the continued operation of an ineffective and inefficient program. As such, program evaluation is one of the pillars of innovation and ensures that agencies are delivering reliable and effective programming to maximize impact.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a bit about me via this blog post. Now, I’d like to get to know all of you! I encourage readers of this post to contact me with any questions you may have about program evaluation and/or how we can partner on your upcoming projects. This is an exciting time for the Observatory and I look forward to engaging with agencies across Canada.
John Ecker is a recent graduate from the PhD program in Experimental Psychology at the University of Ottawa where he worked under the supervision of Dr. Tim Aubry. John's research and evaluation interests include homelessness, housing, community mental health, community integration, and issues related to the LGBTQ community. He is also an avid tennis player. You can contact John Ecker by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congrats John! Look forward to hearing more about your new adventures at COH!
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