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Audits and Evaluations

Summative Evaluation of the National Archival Development Program

4.3 Cost-effectiveness

The evaluation found that, overall; the program was a cost-effective means of achieving LAC's goal of developing an archival network in Canada. Most program recipients strongly agreed that the NADP model of providing direct financial assistance to individual institutions was the optimal means of developing a strong archival network. They noted that archives institutions operated as a tight-knit community and there was a strong infrastructure in place that allowed successes achieved by single institutions to readily benefit other institutions. There was considerable satisfaction with capacity building projects funded under the NADP. For example, institutions found archives advisor projects conducted by Provincial/Territorial councils very useful to the general community. Finally, key informants stated that the NADP model was useful in establishing a relationship between LAC and the archival community, and that any changes to the program's approach would have to consider the implications for this relationship.
Respondents representing LAC management suggested some alternatives for leveraging funding and increasing the impact of the NADP in future. Key informants noted that given the small amount of funds available, it might be useful to target the archival community as a whole, rather than individual institutions. An alternative model might involve using funds to develop tools to be used by the community as a whole. Given the reliance of individual institutions on funding, however, this approach should complement, instead of replace, the current model.

4.3.1 Application and reporting

At the project level, the most widely cited challenges related to cost-effectiveness involved the program's application and reporting process. The 2008 formative evaluation showed that most project recipients found the application process highly onerous, given the amount of funding available (PRA, 2008). In response, LAC collaborated with CCA to develop simplified application forms for the 2009–10 fiscal year. In addition, CCA has made a number of tools available to potential recipients to guide them in the application process. These tools, which are available on the CCA website, include a detailed applicants' handbook, and time/reporting guidelines. It is difficult to ascertain whether these changes have materially improved the process from recipients' perspective due to a limited sample of applicants from 2009–10 projects. Interviews suggest that while applicants find the tools and support from CCA useful, they continue to find the application and reporting process highly time-consuming. Because reporting requirements are the same regardless of project size, recipients engaging in smaller projects may find paperwork lengthy and repetitive. In some cases, key informants representing small projects, noted that they were often discouraged from applying for funding due to the time commitment required and the burden on volunteers and staff. This was particularly the case for first-time applicants, who were less familiar with the process.
Given the federal government's increased focus on results-based performance management, and the modifications already made, it may be difficult for LAC and/or CCA to further simplify the processes. Furthermore, it is possible that applicants will find the process less demanding as they become accustomed to it. An alternative possibility suggested in the formative evaluation involved the use of grants instead of contributions for smaller projects, and LAC may want to explore this possibility at the time of program renewal.

4.3.2 Adjudication

The NADP's adjudication structure continues to be an area of considerable interest and debate. A suggestion to streamline the multi-stage adjudication process first emerged in the 2004 evaluation of the Grants and Contributions Program. Specifically, it was suggested that Provincial/Territorial councils be chiefly responsible for the adjudication process, with CCA Board only becoming involved in cases in special circumstances.  In contrast, the 2008 NADP formative evaluation recommended maintaining the two-tiered process in order to ensure consistency and provide adequate support to applicants. The formative evaluation noted that the overwhelming majority of applications required further clarification, and that a significant number of flawed applications were passing initial review by the Provincial/Territorial councils. In addition, the review done at each level is quite labour intensive and relies heavily upon volunteers. This highlighted a risk in simplifying the process. This evaluation, however, found considerable support among key informants for simplifying the current adjudication process. This could most likely be achieved in one of two ways:

  1. Adopting the approach proposed in the 2004 evaluation of the Grants and Contributions Program by assigning sole adjudication responsibilities to Provincial/Territorial councils, while increasing their level of accountability. This would reduce the administrative burden on CCA and allow them to focus on strategic and partnership building activities (LAC, 2004). Based on key informant interviews, this evaluation found that project recipients were becoming increasingly familiar with the application process. This is largely owing to the fact that the program is no longer new, and to the efforts to simplify the application forms and provide extra guidance. It appears that these measures have at least, to some extent, been successful, and that applicants are less likely to make mistakes during the application process. Assigning sole adjudication responsibility to councils would have to take into consideration the increased burden on councils, many of which have limited resources (e.g., volunteer base, supplies, clerical resources, postage, courier). Moreover, there is a risk of volunteer exhaustion in assigning additional responsibilities to volunteers who already perform extensive unpaid work.
  2. Assigning full responsibility related to adjudication to CCA. The added burden on the CCA Board will be partially mitigated by the recent establishment of the National Review and Adjudication Jury, which reviews applications before recommending them to the Board. This approach, however, would result in some added costs, as the jury would have to review all applications instead of only those recommended by Provincial/Territorial councils.

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