Plan and manage an evaluation

Whether you’re intending to engage an external evaluator, or conduct an evaluation yourself, it can be useful to think about it in terms of 7 stages:

Stage

Possible products from this stage

1. Describe what needs to be evaluated

  • Program description
  • Logic model (sometimes called a program theory or theory of change)

2. Develop the evaluation brief

  • Evaluation brief or Terms of Reference – purpose, scope, Key Evaluation Questions, timelines, available resources

3. Engage the evaluation team

For internal evaluations:

  • Evaluation agreement

For external evaluations:

  • Request For Tender (RFT), Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • Evaluation proposal
  • Evaluation contract

4. Manage development of the evaluation design

  • Evaluation design - how data will be collected, analysed and reported to answer key evaluation questions

5. Manage development of the evaluation work plan

  • Work plan - timeline of milestones and deliverables

6. Manage implementation of the work plan, including production of report(s)

  • Evaluation report(s)

7. Disseminate the report(s) and support use of the evaluation findings

  • Recommendations
  • Policy brief

1. Describe what needs to be evaluated

It is useful to begin with a clear and agreed description of the specific needs the project/program/policy aims to address and an explicit logic describing how it is intended to work to achieve the desired objectives. Ideally this is already available, but it might need to be reviewed and updated . You should also identify potential unintended results that should be included in an evaluation.

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2. Develop the evaluation brief

An evaluation brief provides an overview of what is expected in the evaluation – its purpose and scope, the type of evaluation needed, key evaluation questions, and available resources . The specific content and format for an evaluation brief varies by organization, local practices, or the type of assignment. Regardless of who will conduct the evaluation, an evaluation brief is a useful document to guide the evaluation and communicate with others about the evaluation.

There should also be agreement about how decisions will be made - not only during the evaluation but also at the stage of framing the evaluation and thinking ahead about how to support using the evaluation findings in decision making. This involves considering active engagement of stakeholders which is known to increase the likelihood that the evaluation will be relevant, done in an appropriate way, and used.

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3. Engage the evaluation team

You need to decide who will actually undertake the evaluation: an individual or group internal to the organisation that is implementing the policy or program, an external evaluator, or some combination of the two.

Consider the requirements set out in your organizational policies and procedures (if those exist) and which will be most appropriate for the purpose of the evaluation.

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When the evaluation brief is used to commission an external evaluator or evaluation team, it is a formal document that provides the basis for commissioning the evaluation and developing a contractual arrangement with the selected evaluator/evaluation team.

An important issue to address is whether the community and/or intended beneficiaries will be involved in conducting the evaluation - the advantages of using participatory methods are well-documented.

USEFUL RESOURCES: Participatory Evaluation.

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4. Manage development of the evaluation design

The evaluation design sets out the combination of data collection and analysis methods to be used. It needs to ensure that the evaluation will be as rigorous and systematic as possible within the available resources and timelines, while meeting needs for utility, feasibility and ethics. At this stage, consider whether and when expert advice is needed. This may be available inside the organization or needs to be obtained elsewhere.

USEFUL RESOURCES: START HERE –How do I decide what methods to use?

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5. Manage development of the evaluation work plan

An evaluation plan spells out how data will be collected, analysed and reported to answer the key evaluation questions and to help with monitoring progress on these tasks according to agreed responsibilities and timelines.

USEFUL RESOURCES: Evaluation Plan

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6. Manage implementation of the work plan, including production of report(s)

Good evaluation project management is about keeping the evaluation on track and ensuring emerging issues are dealt with in a timely way, without jeopardising the rigour or integrity of the project. This is supported by communicating well and communicating early, within your own team and with any external teams.

You may need to revisit and revise the choices you have made, given not everything can be anticipated at the start of an evaluation or certain conditions may change during the evaluation, especially if the evaluation is conducted over a long period. In these cases, it is important to document what was changed and why, and carefully consider and document any implications these changes may have on the evaluation product and its use.

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7. Disseminate the report(s) and support use of the evaluation

Evaluations that are not used, are a waste of time and resources. From the beginning of the evaluation, think through what can be done to engage intended users and plan and adequately resource processes and products to support use.

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Customised advice for commissioners of evaluation

You can find a good example of detailed guidance on the process of commissioning and managing an evaluation process in the web-based toolkit of the New South Wales (Australia) government

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