With your service dog organization's increased understanding about recovery from substance use harms and the important role of peer support and connection to animals, humans and the environment for Veteran wellness, now might be the time to consider incorporating some of this new knowledge into your existing service dog program.
Whether now is the right time or not to do this, it's always a good idea to review the design of your service dog program every so often to ensure it delivery fits with your program goal. The United Way Resource Guide to Program Design and Development shares that program design and development is:
a process that an organization uses to develop a program. It is most often an iterative process involving research, consultation, initial design, testing and redesign. A program design is the plan of action that results from that process.
The guide goes on to share the steps involved in this process:
Service dog programs across Canada are at various stages of development, but what is common among them is that evidence is always growing and programs can and should change in response. Also common is that many service dog programs do not currently engage in the 'monitor and evaluate' stage identified above. The United Way guide shares the following about the importance of this stage:
while testing or implementing the program, it is important to learn what’s working well and what isn’t. It is also helpful to review the program’s original goals. By using a systematic process that gathers and analyzes data from a variety of sources, steps can be taken to modify and improve the program before rolling it out or as it gets implemented. This also supports accountability to funders.
The three resources below are intended to easily introduce your service dog organization to monitoring and evaluation. Quite simply, your program requires a program logic model (a roadmap outlining what your program aims to achieve for the community it serves) to be able do an evaluation (a review of where your program has been & determination if you need to alter your roadmap).
It is really important to understand that your organization is not expected to undertake logic model development and evaluation work alone - this is a job for program and evaluation experts. You are, however, expected to understand the process because you will be an important part of it.
The United Way Resource Guide to Program Design and Development is an easy to read first step in understanding program development. It includes:
Having this background will help you to identify the potential to get involved in the monitoring and evaluation of your own service dog program.
A roadmap outlining what your program aims to achieve for the community you serve
A program logic model is a systematic and visual way to present the relationships among the available resources to operate the program, the planned activities and the changes or results that the program is hoping to achieve. It provides a means for thinking through and recording what is expected or desired at different points in time in the ‘life’ of a program. -United Way Resource Guide
A review of where your program has been and determine if you need to alter your roadmap
Evaluation is the systematic assessment of a program, including the collection and analysis of qualitative and/or quantitative data. It not only looks at whether the program is achieving its intended objectives, but also explores why or why not and the implications for the organization. It may also include exploration of unintended outcomes. -United Way Resource Guide
Although therapy dogs are not service dogs, this example still works!
Learn about the design and development of the University of Saskatchewan Therapy Dog Program, including development of a program logic model and consequent evaluation. It will become clear how the program has changed since it was first designed in 2015 and why it has been important to incorporate new knowledge gathered from evaluations to respond to community needs and also contribute to the evolving therapy dog evidence base.