To successfully execute any kind of communication or engagement, you move through a basic trinity of activities: you plan, you deliver, you evaluate. Simple, no? Well, not necessarily. Like so many situations in life, there’s usually a favourite and there’s always the quiet, understated one that can easily go unnoticed. Like all those drummers in bands you would struggle to name, even though you can list every lead singer!
In this scenario, planning and delivery typically get all the attention – or rather the time, effort and resource you put into a project. Planning something new is exciting: it’s full of ideas, creativity and collaboration. Then there’s the thrill of delivering it and seeing all those ideas and everyone’s hard work come to life. You might give a little bit of thought to evaluation along the way but, with planning and delivery being more flashy and shouting louder, it finds itself left sitting in a corner until everything quietens down a bit and someone remembers it’s still there. However, you’re then required to show just how successful your project has been, so you pull up its chair. You remind yourself of the objectives, throw together some figures that demonstrate what you’ve done, add a bit of feedback from people involved, and job done. Right?
Wrong. Just like those aforementioned drummers, good evaluation is the backbone of any well-planned, successful activity or project. It holds the whole thing together so you can see where it’s working, where it’s not and what the ultimate impact is. It’s not just counting in the rest of the band or doing a quick solo at the end of the song – it’s there from the start to the very end providing a steady beat throughout.
And it’s not just about doing any evaluation activity; you need to do it properly. Getting it right is vital if you genuinely want to understand the success of your activity. So, what does ‘getting it right’ look like? (Here come a lot of terms beginning with ‘o’… - see the end of article if you’re not sure what they mean!) Good evaluation involves measuring a range of outcomes that show the difference your activity has made, as well as the outputs of what you actually did (we’ll cover more about outputs and outcomes in a future article). Those outcomes should relate to your set objectives, and you need to think about how you’ll measure them at the OUTSET of your project – if some outcome measures require baseline data, you’ll need to know that and deal with it before you deliver your activity.
Good evaluation is about monitoring the impact of your activity whilst it’s live. If something’s not working, it can quickly let you know that something needs tweaking. And like anything good or worthwhile, the more you put in, the more you get out. And without it? There’s the danger that you don’t reach the people you really need to, or that you waste time and resource repeatedly doing the same ineffective things. Best case, your activity just doesn’t do anything or cut through, worst case, it could cause more issues or misunderstanding.
So think of evaluation like a straight-talking, honest friend at your side to guide you through your project with insight and sound advice. If, at any point in a project’s lifecycle, you can’t hear its measured tones in your ear, take a look around and make sure it hasn’t been relegated to that quiet corner. Allow it its share of the limelight, and you will be repaid well in the long term.
Objective – Defines what you aim to do or achieve. Objectives should be specific and have clear, measurable outcomes.
Output – Demonstrates what you did, for example, the number of leaflets handed out or the number of workshops delivered.
Outcome – Shows the impact of your activity, for example, increased awareness or change in attitudes or behaviour.
© Tangelo House 2020