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Audits and Evaluations

Summative Evaluation of the National Archival Development Program

Executive Summary

Introduction

This report provides the findings of the summative evaluation of the National Archival Development Program (NADP). The evaluation forms part of Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC’s) performance measurement strategy, and addresses issues of relevance, performance, and cost-effectiveness as per Treasury Board (TB) directives on evaluation.

Profile of the NADP

The NADP was established in 2006, as a successor to the previous Grants and Contributions Program. In support of LAC’s mandate to develop a strong archival network in Canada, the program provides $1.14M in contributions funding for archival projects undertaken by institutions across Canada. The program also provides $580K to the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA), which operates as a third party delivery organization, and conducts archival capacity building activities.

Archival projects funded by the NADP must demonstrate adherence to at least one of five program objectives:

  • Increasing access to Canada’s archival heritage through the national catalogue
  • Increasing awareness and broadening use of Canada’s archives
  • Increasing the representation of Aboriginal peoples and under-represented ethnocultural groups
  • Increasing capacity of archival networks to undertake strategic and development activities
  • Increasing the capacity of archival institutions to preserve Canada’s archival heritage

Methodology

This evaluation employed two principal methodologies:

  • Document review – documents reviewed included program documents provided by LAC and CCA, as well as 40 institutional project files, which included applications, contributions agreements, interim and final reports.
  • Key informant interviews – five group interviews were conducted with representatives from CCA, LAC, Provincial and Territorial councils, and project recipients.

Findings

There is strong continued support for the NADP, which represents one of the only sources of financial support for archives in Canada. However, funding recipients expressed that levels of funding should increase to address increasing financial pressures, and to meet the needs of the community. The evaluation found that the program is consistent with LAC’s mandate and priorities, and with the objectives of its recent Modernization Initiative.

The management and administration processes associated with the NADP are clear to stakeholders, and roles and responsibilities have been well communicated. Program recipients were very satisfied with the support received from CCA and Provincial/Territorial councils.

Performance data suggests good results under each of the NADP objectives. Projects funded under Objective 1 increased materials available through the national catalogue by 7%. Additionally, users noted improvements in their experiences with the catalogue. Limitations in technical infrastructure continue to hinder efforts to contribute materials to the catalogue. LAC and CCA are currently testing ways to overcome this challenge.

Projects funded under Objective 2 showed some success in increasing public awareness of archives and archival activities through promotional and partnership building activities. Between 2007 and 2010, there was a 6% increase in the percentage of people aware of an archive open to the public, and a 14% increase in the percentage of people able to identify activities they could do in an archive. Overall levels of awareness remain relatively low, suggesting new approaches may need to be considered to broaden general awareness of archives and to engage non-traditional users.

Under Objective 3, projects contributed 71 fonds-level Aboriginal descriptions to the national catalogue, and an additional 249 series and subseries-level descriptions to provincial and territorial networks. In addition, references to Aboriginal people in the national catalogue increased by 6.3% in the same period. Limited capacity among institutions representing Aboriginal and underrepresented groups remains the most significant obstacle to achieving results under Objective 3.

Projects under Objective 4 produced 110 developmental tools, and delivered 450 training days. Tools and training sessions addressed a variety of relevant topics, including archival theory and practice, digitization, preservation, special (AV) media, and policy and promotion. Recipients considered these tools and training very helpful.

The evaluation showed that the NADP is a cost-effective means of achieving its intended outcomes. Alternative application, adjudication, and reporting processes might be considered for future iterations of the program. Applicants continue to find these processes time-consuming, and in some become a deterrent to applying. Streamlining these processes might result in increased efficiency and improve the experiences of applicants; however, such changes may also result in new risks and costs.

Recommendations

  1. The findings of this Summative evaluation support the findings and recommendations of previous evaluation reports and confirm the need to continue the National Archival Development Program (NADP). It is the recommendation of this evaluation report that the funds of the program be increased in order to cover the expected inflation rate and in order to support initiatives in coping with the digital environment. The NADP continues to be the main source of finance, sometimes the only program of formal funding, while provincial, regional and municipal governments as well as universities and other varied sources make contributions to match the funds, as required by LAC and CCA.

  2. Following the 2008 Summative evaluation report, LAC and CCA have taken the necessary actions to implement fully the performance measurement plan. For the first time in 2009-2010 almost all data were collected. The recommendation that NADP results to date be used as baseline data and that program-level performance targets under each objective be used to improve performance measurement and identify changes and trends in the future, is still valid.

  3. Program recipients repeatedly request a lighter process for the application, adjudication, and monitoring of the NADP. Even though the current system in place is effective and despite that, some adjustments were made, the smaller size recipients are still disadvantaged by the program processes. Therefore using grants funding instead of contributions would be the preferred option to address this issue. Another option would be that LAC continues to use the contributions formula, and consider two types of contributions: one for projects funded at the $10K level or more and one for less than $10K.
    • The projects funded at the $10K level or more would continue to use the existing application, adjudication and monitoring process since the majority of these projects are granted to Provincial/Territorial Archival Councils.

    • The projects funded at the less than $10K level would use a simplified process under the Provincial/Territorial Council’s authority, while CCA would be responsible for the financial administration of these projects. This approach would enable the Provincial/Territorial Councils to create application, adjudication and monitoring processes that are commensurate to the projects approved. The performance measurement and reporting system would also be greatly simplified by eliminating the necessity to provide information with regards to the performance measurement plan.
  4. Interactions between CCA and LAC are continuous, year after year. LAC’s management role with regards to the NADP needs to be defined more precisely. In this respect it is recommended that the program adopt a single window management approach in order to improve communications and provide a rationale-based framework for interaction with CCA.

Management Response and Action Plan

Recommendation 1

LAC acknowledges this recommendation and agrees to explore options to increase funding to the program to cover the expected inflation rate and to cope with the digital environment. LAC will continue to work with the CCA to explore the impact of the digital environment on the archival community and how LAC may further support the archival network.

Target Date: Q/T1 (and ongoing) 2011-2012

Recommendation 2

Management agrees with this recommendation. LAC will work with the CCA to develop program-level performance targets for each of the five objectives, using existing NADP results, where possible and appropriate, as baseline data. Such targets will be used to identify changes and trends in future final reports on program activity. LAC will also explore opportunities to streamline performance management to simplify the process and to ensure all data which is gathered is an effective measure of performance.

Target Date: Q/T1 2011-2012

Recommendation 3

At this time LAC will continue the use of contributions under an updated model that will address the burden of risk for recipients. LAC will explore the implication of implementing a model where projects of 10K or less will be managed under the Provincial/Territorial Council’s authority, while CCA would be responsible for the financial administration of these projects.

Target Date: Q/T1 2011-2012

LAC will also explore the future possibility of a grant structure for projects of less than 10K.

Target Date: Q/T2 2013-2014

Recommendation 4

Management agrees with this recommendation. LAC will specify its primary contact with the CCA in any LAC/CCA contribution agreement. Additionally, LAC will communicate clarified roles and responsibilities with the CCA using a rationale-based framework for interaction.

Target Date: Q/T1 (and ongoing ) 2011-2012

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