Executive summaries

Documents on a table.

The executive summary of an evaluation report is a shortened version of the full report  – usually one to four pages – that highlights findings and recommendations and is placed at the front of the report.

The executive summary may also include a brief overview of the evaluation purpose, key evaluation questions, and the research methods used.  

It should 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.

"1. Introduction 

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. 

2. The Context 

The Yogyakarta earthquake killed an estimate 5,700 people and injured 27,000. Over 300,000  houses were destroyed or severely damaged and a further 200,000 suffered minor damage. 1.6  million people were left homeless. An additional 1.1 million people were affected.

Recovery is now well underway in the affected areas, as those affected have been provided with some form of shelter assistance, health and education services are operating, and children are back in school and say they feel less traumatised. However, many gaps still remain, particularly due to the limited recovery of economic livelihoods. 

3. The Response by the four agencies

At the time of the earthquake, three of the agencies had teams on the ground responding or preparing to respond to a potential eruption of the Mount Merapi Volcano. They began assessments and redeployed NFI kits from the Mount Merapi crisis to earthquake-affected areas. The fourth agency began their response on May 29th 2006.

Many staff employed in Yogyakarta had worked in their agency’s emergency response program in Aceh Province. They were able to apply their learning from Aceh to the more recent disaster in Java... "

Advice for using this method

  • 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.


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: https://www.crs.org/our-work-overseas/research-publications/monitoring-and-evaluation-short-cuts

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 https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnadw117.pdf

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