The executive summary of an evaluation report is a shortened version of a full report. It highlights evaluation findings and recommendations, but may also include a brief overview of the evaluation purpose, key evaluation questions, and the research options used.
This summary provides a condensed version of the different sections – usually one to four pages – and is placed at the front of the report. It should however be understandable as a stand-alone document that can also be disseminated separately from the full report. Executive summaries are typically written for busy decision-makers and enable readers to get vital information about the evaluation without having to read the entire report. Because of their condensed style, executive summaries can be more influential and read by more readers than the main body of the report.
A Joint Evaluation of the Yogyakarta Earthquake Response July 2007
The following example is an excerpt from Stetson (2008), pp. 37-41.
Following the earthquake in Yogyakarta on May 27, 2006, CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Save the Children (SC) and World Vision Indonesia (WVI) responded separately to the disaster. Although the agencies worked independently of each other, it was felt that a joint evaluation (JE) of the response would demonstrate greater accountability and the results would be taken more seriously.
The objectives of the JE were to assess individual agencies on:
- The impacts of their responses and identify promising practices and indicators on impact measurement.
- The appropriateness of agency responses.
- Whether the responses had helped the recovery of people and communities.
- The level of agency accountability to local people.
- Organisational preparedness to respond to emergencies.
Advice for writing an executive summary
- Read the original document from beginning to end
- Start the executive summary with conclusions and recommendations
- Underline all key ideas, significant statements, and vital recommendations
- Edit and/or rewrite the underlined information
- Edit the rewritten version by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases
- Check the edited version against the original document to ensure that the essential information is captured, including project successes and challenges
- Ensure that only original information from the report is presented.
Source: Stetson (2008), p. 28.
Guide and Example
- Communicating and Reporting on an Evaluation: This guide from Catholic Relief Services and American Red Cross provides a detailed explanation and example (see above)of an Executive Summary.
Writing a Good Executive Summary: This UNICEF guide provides a clear outline for writing an Executive Summary.
Oxfam GB Evaluation Guidelines (accessed 2012-05-08): http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/~/media/Files/policy_and_practice/methods_approaches/monitoring_evaluation/ogb_evaluation_guidelines.ashx
Stetson, Valerie. (2008). Communicating and reporting on an evaluation: Guidelines and Tools. Catholic Relief Services and American Red Cross, Baltimore and Washington, USA. Download: http://www.crsprogramquality.org/storage/pubs/me/MEmodule_communicating.pdf
Torres, Rosalie T., Hallie Preskill and Mary E. Piontek. (2005). Evaluation Strategies for Communicating and Reporting: Enhancing Learning in Organizations (Second Edition). University of Mexico.
USAID. (2010). Constructing an evaluation report. Retrieved from http://transition.usaid.gov/policy/evalweb/documents/TIPS-ConstructinganEvaluationReport.pdf