Macro or Micro Approach to Evaluation?

March 29, 2007 at 8:47 pm 2 comments

When I’m asked to take on an evaluation project, I usually categorise it in my own mind as “micro” or “macro”. Let me explain. I see evaluation projects falling into these two categories:

Macro: evaluation of an overall project or programme (e.g. training programme, communications project)

Micro: evaluation of an element that is part of a larger programme (e.g. evaluation of online communications – part of larger communications project, evaluation of an event that is part of larger campaign).

I find that a lot of evaluation projects that I get involved with are at a “micro” level. And I’ve been wondering why is this so?

I believe that evaluation is more often approached at a “micro” level because it is easier to deal with and less daunting for an organisation to cope with. Many people do not have the resources, time and political authority to launch a “macro” evaluation of projects/programmes.

And a lot of the literature on evaluation recommends implementing evaluation aspects in small steps. And there’s certainly some merit in this – to start at the “micro” level and build up to the “macro” level. In this way, people can hopefully see the benefits of evaluation and will support larger evaluation efforts when needed.


Entry filed under: Evaluation methodology, General.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. achumley  |  April 18, 2007 at 4:59 pm


    Great point. We often see the same dilemma here in Canada. Frequently a client will approach us with a micro request to measure a specific campaign or an event and we try to volley it back into the macro measurement court. Typically, we’ll say “OK, we’d be happy to do that but how about we also demonstrate the extent to which this one-off contributes to your overall, on-going media profile? Moreover, what if we compared that to 1. your other campaign / event efforts and even those of your competitors? Going even deeper, what say we look at media portrayals of issues that you, your competitors and your industry face (via a syndicated study)? Deeper again, “what if we show you the correlations between media content analysis of all of the above and changes in awareness and attitude?” Changes in behaviour, balanced scorecards , dashboards, quintessential bottom lines are a whole other (but no less important) discussion. 🙂

    Sometimes this macro court volley works, sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on how senior the person is that we’re talking to (sometimes they don’t know enough to know what’s possible); on budget; on timeline; on who typically ‘owns’ research in the organization (commonly the purview of marketing for better or worse); on whether or not they have some legacy internal system already in place (which can be difficult to disentangle)

    I hope that if all of us measurementarati keep chipping away at it, we’ll see more macro projects.

  • 2. Glenn  |  April 18, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    thanks Alan, that’s some very good points and interesting to hear that we are facing similar issues in Canada. As you touched on, from the purely client/consultant perspective, a “micro” approach is less “threatening” to clients, is often more matched to actual budgets – but also can lead to a macro project.


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