Friday, 21 June 2019

Evaluation Tips Series; Think about the audience right at the beginning

Here at The Evaluator we teach workshops to small community and charitable groups and show them how to plan out and carry out an evaluation of their own.

First of all, let's go right back to basics.

What is an evaluation?

A structured method to understand what happened during a project or activity. It is likely to cover who took part, what was the impact, and to answer the question: did the project or activity achieve its goal?

Sometimes it could be as simple as a conversation about what worked well and what didn’t.

One of the first things we talk about is 'Who is the audience?' We don't mean who is the audience for your activity or who is taking part, we mean - who is reading the evaluation itself, who is the audience for the evaluation?

There are four main answers...

  1. Public Document
  2. Funders
  3. Potential Funders or Sponsors
  4. Internal 

If an evaluation is designed to be a public document, then it needs to be written in a formal way. Chances are a public document will also be aimed at either current funders or potential funders.

If you are writing for  funders, they probably want to see the difference their investment has made and to know if it has achieved the aims.

If it is for potential funders or sponsors, they may be much more interested in the type of people you are working with and think about specific questions like; What they are struggling with? What is upsetting them? What do they want?  It's about finding the problem and offering a well planned solution to that problem.

If the audience is internal, you probably want to help the charity or community group understand how they can improve what they currently do, and measure what is working well and could be increased and what is not so effective and could be scaled back or changed. Sometimes an internal evaluation will be designed to help answer a specific question, for example, what can we do to recruit more participants? Or how can a specific problem be fixed. Often an internal evaluation is carried out when there is a feeling that something is not working well, or something is wrong, but there isn't a clear and obvious answer what it may be.

Overall, thinking at the beginning about what you are trying to produce and answer is a vital part of a great evaluation. Time spent planning at this stage isn't wasted.