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How Do You Define Program Success?

How Do You Define Program Success?

By Stephanie Guinosso, MPH | January 27, 2015
Program Manager, ETR

How do you define program success?


From my perspective, a successful program is one that is created in partnership with key stakeholders in the community. It’s developed with the community’s needs in mind. It facilitates positive change in peoples’ lives by addressing multiple layers of an issue, from individual knowledge, attitudes and behaviors to the social and cultural structures within which people live, work and play.


A successful program relies on the best evidence for what works. It’s also flexible and adaptable to the uniqueness of a particular context. Successful programs cultivate the knowledge and skills of implementers to ensure that the program operates at its best capacity—there is a culture of learning and growth, adapting and responding to change. 

Successful programs are designed with the end in mind. That means with an eye toward sustaining valuable resources, maintaining relationships and sharing successes.

Simply put, successful programs have impact.

ETR’s Program Success Framework

Some of our brightest brains here at ETR pulled together our ideas about program success into one framework. We call it the Program Success Framework.

Our goal was twofold. First, we aimed to distill the science of what works for successful programs into five basic steps that could guide practitioners in the field to develop, implement and sustain successful programs.

Second, we sought to aid practitioners in assessing their own strengths and gaps within each step. This helps pinpoint where they could direct limited resources to best build their program’s capacity.

Please take a moment to peruse the framework and accompanying planning tool to find out how these resources can improve your own program efforts. We like it and think you will too!

What’s Your Favorite?

My favorite part of the framework is Step 5: THRIVE! This is where the magic happens—where all of the work from the prior stages coalesces to make a big impact in the lives of the people you've reached. We don’t want programs to just survive until the next funding opportunity comes through. We want them to thrive, and we hope to help all of you get there! 

Stephanie Guinosso, MPH, is a program manager at ETR. She provides training and technical assistance to teen pregnancy prevention providers across the country and is currently completing a PhD in child and adolescent health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She can be reached at

Check out ETR's Evidence-Based Program Center website for additional tools and resources to help you plan, develop and deliver a successful program.


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