Program evaluation basics: glossary of evaluation terms

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This page serves as a glossary of terms around program evaluation. Its purpose is to define terms in the context of Wikimedia programmatic work and to create a shared language around program evaluation within the Wikimedia movement.

  • Inputs are resources a program uses to achieve program objectives. Examples are volunteer time, staff, printed materials, presentation slides, equipment, and money. A program uses inputs to support activities.
  • Activities are what a program does with its inputs to achieve its goals. Examples are teaching people how to edit Wikipedia, giving presentations to increase awareness around Wikipedia, creating an infrastructure for people to upload images as part of a photo contest, training volunteers as Wikipedia workshop leaders. Program activities result in outputs.
  • Outputs are products of a program's activities, such as the number of workshops staged, participants served, printed materials distributed, etc. Another term for "outputs" is "units of service". A program's outputs should produce desired outcomes for the program's participants.
  • Outcomes are benefits for participants after their involvement with a program. Outcomes may relate to knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behaviors. Examples of outcomes include skills needed to edit a Wikipedia article, knowledge about free licences, ability to upload photos to Commons, more effective handling of conflicts within the community, etc. Ideally, a program's outcomes should result in sustained impact on the Wikimedia projects.
  • Impact is the extent to which program outcomes lead to long-term and sustained changes on Wikimedia projects. Examples are the amount of new contributors recruited through programmatic activities, the increase in the percentage of female Wikipedia editors on a specific wiki, the quality of content on a Wikipedia language version, an improved retention rate among very active Wikipedia contributors, etc.