Formative Evaluation of VictimConnect

Formative evaluation is useful for assessing whether a program is feasible and appropriate for its intended purpose and target population, and for identifying what improvements are needed for its effectiveness to be evaluated. Urban’s formative evaluation of VictimConnect is the first phase of a planned multiphase evaluation and was intended to contribute critical knowledge to the field regarding the use and effectiveness of technology-based victim services. Findings from the multiphase effort will clarify how to use technology most efficiently to reach more victims while preserving the rights and confidentiality of victims and their families.

The formative evaluation had three overarching goals: (1) to assess the evaluability of VictimConnect, (2) to use those findings to strengthen the program’s research capacity, and (3) to develop comprehensive plans for future evaluation of the program’s implementation and outcomes. To accomplish these, the research team worked closely with NCVC to document the VictimConnect program model, examine existing data, interview program staff, observe its technological platform and sample chat interactions, and finalize plans for building research capacity and rigorous evaluation.

One of the formative evaluation’s most immediate successes was clarification on the conceptual model underlying VictimConnect, as shown in the logic model presented in the second toolkit resource resulting from our formative evaluation.

Results from the first phase are summarized in an overarching report, Formative Evaluation of VictimConnect: Preparing for Rigorous Evaluation of a National Resource Center. This report is supplemented by a series of briefs that describe each component of the formative evaluation in greater depth. The briefs constitute a toolkit for researchers interested in conducting similar evaluations.

The VictimConnect Formative Evaluation Toolkit includes the following publications:

  • VictimConnect Foundational Theory and Literature: Toolkit Resource 1” describes the relevant theories and literature behind VictimConnect and explains why the victim services field may benefit from a national, technology-based resource center for all crime victims.

  • Refining the VictimConnect Logic Model: Toolkit Resource 2” introduces the meaning and value of using a logic model for programs, describes how Urban collaborated with NCVC to refine the VictimConnect logic model, and identifies its key components. 

  • "VictimConnect Evaluability Assessment: Toolkit Resource 3"  describes the activities that Urban’s researchers engaged in to assess VictimConnect’s evaluability, which entailed a multistep process to clarify the program model, assess its actual operations, agree on research-focused program changes, and determine evaluation designs and priorities—all in collaboration with National Center for Victims of Crime staff.

  • VictimConnect Implementation Evaluation Plan: Toolkit Resource 4” introduces the purpose and goals of Urban’s planned implementation evaluation of VictimConnect, clarifies the relevant research questions and logic model components, and details how VictimConnect’s implementation fidelity and activities will be examined.

  • "VictimConnect Outcome Evaluation Plan: Toolkit Resource 5" identifies the goals of the planned outcome evaluation of VictimConnect, highlight the outcomes to be examined from VictimConnect’s logic model, and describe how each outcome will be measured and assessed.

  • "VictimConnect Research Capacity Building: Toolkit Resource 6" summarizes activities that the National Center for Victims of Crime has engaged in with Urban's assistance to build research capacity in preparation for a comprehensive implementation evaluation and rigorous outcome evaluation of VictimConnect.

  • "VictimConnect Evaluation Instruments: Toolkit Resource 7presents drafts of the instruments to be used in Urban’s planned implementation and outcome evaluations of VictimConnect; these instruments will be pilot tested and finalized before being used for evaluation.