How can evaluators maximise the usability of evaluations? Practical suggestions

Por: Yasmin Winther Almeida

Evaluation is a powerful tool that enables organisations to measure, assess, and improve their programmes, policies, initiatives, and processes. It can provide valuable insights, identify areas of strength and weakness, and guide decision-making for optimal outcomes.

However, the true value of evaluation lies not only in conducting it, but also in utilising its findings effectively. In this article, we will explore the significance of evaluation utilisation and discuss strategies to maximise its impact.

Understanding Evaluation Utilisation

Evaluation utilisation refers to the process of incorporating evaluation findings into decision-making and subsequent actions. According to Patton’s Utilisation-Focused Evaluation (UFE) approach, which emphasises the intended use and influence of evaluation findings, evaluations should be conducted with the primary purpose of promoting effective decision-making and utilisation of evaluation findings. Patton emphasises the importance of including diverse perspectives and engaging stakeholders in a collaborative and participatory process throughout the evaluation; this ensures that the evaluation is specifically tailored to address their unique information needs and concerns.

Patton’s 17-step Utilization-Focused Evaluation (U-FE) Checklist (2013)

This approach also requires that the evaluation team and the key stakeholders work closely to define the purpose, scope, and the intended use of the evaluation to ensure that the evaluation is relevant and aligned with stakeholders’ goals. Another important aspect of UFE is the emphasis on utilisation-focused reporting. The evaluation findings are communicated in a way that is accessible and meaningful to the intended users, providing them with actionable recommendations and insights that can inform decision-making and programme improvement.

Throughout the UFE process, Patton emphasises the importance of fostering a culture of learning and using evaluation as a tool for social change. This involves cultivating a respectful and collaborative relationship between evaluators and stakeholders, creating an environment where evaluation findings are seen as opportunities for growth and improvement.

How can evaluators maximise evaluation utilisation?

Engage Stakeholders

To engage stakeholders effectively, evaluators typically identify and involve a diverse range of individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the programme or initiative being evaluated. These stakeholders may include programme staff, donors, policymakers, community members, implementing partners and other relevant parties.

The engagement process begins by establishing clear communication channels and building relationships with stakeholders. It is essential to communicate the purpose and benefits of the evaluation, address any concerns or misconceptions, and establish trust and rapport. This helps create a supportive and collaborative environment where stakeholders feel valued and encouraged to contribute their insights and perspectives.

During the evaluation inception phase, evaluators actively seek input from stakeholders to identify their information needs, expectations, and desired outcomes. This collaborative approach ensures that the evaluation is focused on the issues and questions that matter most to stakeholders, increasing the relevance and usefulness of the findings.

Engaged stakeholders ensure that the evaluation is relevant

Engaging stakeholders also involves involving them in data collection activities. This may include conducting interviews, focus groups, surveys, or observation sessions with stakeholders who have first-hand experience or knowledge related to the programme being evaluated. Involving stakeholders in data collection not only enhances the quality and richness of the data but also promotes their active engagement and investment in the evaluation process.

Throughout the evaluation, regular communication and feedback loops are maintained with stakeholders to provide updates on progress, share emerging findings, and seek their input and validation. This ongoing engagement allows stakeholders to contribute their expertise, provide contextual insights, and offer alternative perspectives, thereby enriching the evaluation process and enhancing the credibility of the findings.

Finally, engaging stakeholders also involves involving them in the interpretation and sense-making of the evaluation findings. This collaborative sense-making process allows stakeholders to make sense of the data in light of their experiences, knowledge, and priorities. By actively involving stakeholders in this process, evaluators facilitate their ownership of the findings and increase the likelihood that the evaluation results will be used for decision-making and programme improvement.

Tailor Communication

When presenting evaluation findings, it is important to consider the diverse backgrounds, knowledge levels, and roles of the intended audiences. This may include programme managers, policymakers, frontline staff, community members, funders, or other relevant parties. By understanding their perspectives and information needs, evaluators can customise the communication to resonate with each audience.

To tailor the communication effectively, evaluators should focus on presenting the key messages and insights derived from the evaluation. This involves distilling complex data and analysis into succinct and easily understandable points. By highlighting the most relevant and significant findings, stakeholders can quickly grasp the main takeaways without getting overwhelmed by excessive detail.

In addition to presenting the findings, UFE emphasises the importance of providing actionable recommendations. Evaluators should translate the evaluation results into practical suggestions and strategies that stakeholders can implement to improve programmes or make informed decisions. These recommendations should be specific, feasible, and supported by evidence from the evaluation. By offering clear guidance, evaluators empower stakeholders to take meaningful actions based on the evaluation findings.

Tailoring communication also involves selecting appropriate formats and channels for sharing the evaluation findings. This may include written reports, presentations, infographics, dashboards, or interactive workshops. The chosen formats should align with the preferences and communication styles of the target audiences. For instance, policymakers may prefer concise executive summaries, while programme staff might benefit from detailed reports with practical implementation guidelines.

Tailored communication ensures that each stakeholder receives the most relevant information in the most useful format.

Furthermore, it is crucial to consider the potential impacts of the evaluation findings on different stakeholders. Evaluators should explicitly communicate the relevance and implications of the findings for each audience, addressing their specific interests and concerns. By highlighting the potential benefits or consequences of acting upon the evaluation findings, stakeholders are more likely to recognize the value and urgency of utilising the evaluation results.

Throughout the communication process, evaluators should also encourage feedback and dialogue with stakeholders. This open and interactive approach allows stakeholders to ask questions, seek clarification, and engage in discussions around the evaluation findings. By promoting an ongoing conversation, evaluators can deepen stakeholders’ understanding, address any misconceptions, and build a shared understanding of the implications of the evaluation.

Visually engaging reports

Effective communication of evaluation findings is vital to ensure the utilisation and impact of evaluation reports. One key aspect of this communication is the presentation of the findings and recommendations in a visually engaging manner. This can be achieved through several ways, such as:

  1. Using infographics and data visualisations: Incorporate infographics, charts, graphs, and diagrams to illustrate key findings, trends, and relationships in the data. Ensure that the visualisations are clear, labelled properly, and easy to interpret.
  2. Employing dashboards (e.g., PowerBI): Consider creating interactive data dashboards that allow users to explore the evaluation findings dynamically. Dashboards can enable users to filter data, view different visualisations, and customise their analysis based on their specific interests. Interactive dashboards offer a more engaging and exploratory experience for users.
  3. Emphasising key messages and quotes: Highlight key findings, recommendations, or quotes by using visually distinct formatting, such as bold text, larger fonts, or coloured text boxes. This draws attention to important information and makes it easier for readers to grasp the main points at a glance.
  4. Using a visually consistent layout: Pay attention to the overall design and layout of the report to create a cohesive and visually consistent look. Use consistent fonts, font sizes, and formatting throughout the report. Ensure that headings, subheadings, and sections are clearly defined. Leave enough white space to improve readability and avoid clutter.
Visually-engaging reports, courtesy of cross-content (

By incorporating these visual elements, evaluators can support the understanding, retention, and utilisation of evaluation findings, ultimately increasing the impact of evaluations and informing decision-making processes.

Final considerations

Evaluations are valuable tools for programme and process improvement. However, their true value is realized when the results are effectively utilized. By implementing the strategies discussed in this blog post, you can maximize the utility of your evaluations and drive the success of your initiatives.

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