IPM Assessment Website Focuses on Useful, Practical Tools to Measure Impacts

Janet Hurley and logic models have never gotten along.

That’s why Hurley, an extension program specialist in school IPM at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, was a perfect addition to the Western IPM Center’s IPM Adoption and Impacts Assessment Work Group that formed in 2012.

“I was asked to participate as the novice of the group,” Hurley said. “My job is not evaluation but I must evaluate, so I was asked to participate and give feedback as the group developed its training modules.”

Those modules are now complete and online. [Access it here] Initially launched in 2013 with modules on evaluation planning, surveys, economic analysis and focus groups, the website was updated late last month with new modules on secondary data, case studies, interviews and social network analysis.

“The aim was to provide a toolkit that will allow people who don’t have training in impact assessment methods to do basic impact assessments,” said UC Davis plant pathologist Neil McRoberts, who coordinated the group. “Impacts can be measured in many different ways, and different approaches are relevant in different contexts. So the idea was to provide people with the means to do a range of different types of assessments, at an introductory level.”

Chapters within each module include when a measurement or method is appropriate, what to collect, how to collect it, how to analyze it and how to report it.

Workgroup member Al Fournier, IPM program manager at the University of Arizona, said the sections on focus groups and interviews were especially helpful for him.

“Most people in IPM really don’t have a lot of experience with qualitative data,” he said. “They will say, ‘I know what to do with data when it’s numbers, but what do I do when data are words?’” Toolkit modules like interviews and case studies answer that question, outlining qualitative data analysis procedures and linking to helpful resources.

Another member of the workgroup was Pete Goodell, a cooperative extension advisor in IPM, who stresses the importance of evaluation to the other advisors throughout the state.

“You’ve got to do this sort of evaluation,” Goodell said. “Proposals are asking for it, and funders are saying you have to show us impacts and outcomes.”

So in the group, Goodell’s focus was keeping the modules focused and useful.

“My job was keep it where people would want to come and use it,” he said. “I was a beta tester to help focus on what was most useful.”

His impression of the final product?

“It’s a great site to get people exposed to these ideas,” he said. “What it really is is a primer, and it’s a really, really valuable one.”

Beyond the introductory material in each module, there are also links to additional reading and resources for people who want to take their learning to the next level, as well as warnings on when it’s best to call in economists or social scientists.

As for Hurley, she recently applied for a grant through a Southern IPM Center request for proposals that required a logic model as part of the application.

“Because of this group, I was able to submit a logic model and not be terrified,” she said.

Hurley’s project was funded.