In the last in our series of blogs on using video in evaluation, Glenn O'Neil joins us to discuss how you can use video to communicate your evaluation findings. The BetterEvaluation rainbow framework explores how you can help your evaluation findings have impact - why not consider using video as a practical tool in your communication strategy? Catch up on the other blogs in the series, on Participatory Video and using video to learn about the process of conducting an evaluation.
A common concern you will hear from evaluators is that their evaluation findings are little read and under-used. There are many reasons for this, but the way evaluation findings are communicated (or not) plays a key role. Increasingly, evaluators are finding innovative ways to present their evaluation findings beyond the standard written report: Multimedia presentations, photo-stories, workshops, webinars – and video.
Video is an excellent medium to communicate findings to a range of stakeholders - it conveys messages visually and in manner that facilitates understanding. It also requires evaluators to be concise and summarise their key findings.
Through two examples, I want to share with readers my experiences in using video to communicate evaluation findings.
In 2012, I was part of team that carried out a mid-term evaluation for the Africa Climate Change Initiative (ACCRA) project. The project aimed to influence the policies and approaches of governments and development agencies in responding to climate change. This was a complex evaluation with findings at the local, national (multi-country) and international level and across the different activity streams. As a consequence, in agreement with ACCRA, we decided to use video to communicate our key findings. Importantly, we took this decision at the very start of the project. Therefore, when we carried out our onsite visits to Uganda, Mozambique and Ethiopia, we filmed with our mobile phones various stakeholders talking about the project.
Once we had drafted our evaluation findings, we looked at our results and drew out the key points and mapped them out in a storyboard for a video. We then worked with a video editor and animator to integrate our own video clips and those of the ACCRA team, quotes from stakeholders and key findings. Here you can see the final result – at 9 minutes it’s perhaps a little too long and packs in a lot of information. It cost only several thousand dollars to put together, which was mainly the cost of using a professional video editor and animator.
The video clip has been used as a training tool by ACCRA for staff and to present the findings to various stakeholders. With some 250 views to date on YouTube, I believe it’s certainly more than the average evaluation report is read.
In 2013, I was part of a team that carried out a global stakeholder consultation for the Joint Standards Initiative. The aim was to collect a broad range of views and feedback on how humanitarian standards are used - or should be used in the future. As part of the process, the evaluation team was asked to present some initial findings at a global leaders’ conference of the humanitarian sector. The evaluation team thought the best way to communicate key points was to present a series of clips from interviews with stakeholders working at the field level – in Kenya, Mexico, Senegal and South Sudan. The interviews were filmed with our own mobile phones and we worked with a video editor to add subtitles and put them together into a four minute video clip – all for the cost of several hundred dollars (the cost of the professional video editor):
The video was well received at the conference and has since been used in other presentations and training for the humanitarian sector.
From these experiences, I drew some key lessons on using video to communicate evaluation findings:
- You need to decide early on in the evaluation process if you want to use video to communicate evaluation findings
- You don’t need advanced technical skills to use video – a mobile phone with a camera is sufficient – and help by a video editor if you don’t have the time or know-how in editing
- You don’t need a large budget to use video
- You shouldn’t aim for “cinema quality” video – these days, a shaky couple of seconds of an interview (as we can see in the above videos) can equally convey a key message just as well as a slick Hollywood-style production
- You have to think in communications terms when designing your video: What do we say, who is it for and with what effect? (with apologies to Laswell).
Of course, in using video to communicate evaluation findings, you have to be sensitive to the issues and context being addressed and ensure that people being filmed agree that their images are used for a video.
Communicating evaluation results will always be a challenge for evaluators – it is not easy to draw out key messages from complex findings, as Lee Cronbach, a pioneer in evaluation stated:
“Communication overload is a common fault; many an evaluation is reported with self-defeating thoroughness.”
Photo: The big game, Valerio Veo/Flickr.