Making sense of evaluation: A handbook for everyone

This evaluation handbook, created by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unity (Superu), has been designed for those working in New Zealand's social sector who need to know more about how to measure and understand the effectiveness of their programmes.

The contents are presented in four modules, featuring a penguin case study to ground the theory of evaluation in real life.

This resource and the following information was contributed to BetterEvaluation by Isabelle Collins, SUPERU.

Authors and their affiliation

Isabelle Collins, Viv Smith, Sophie Debski, Kay Haughey, Deborah O’Kane.

Key features

The handbook has been written as an easy introduction to the concepts, theory and language of evaluation, with a penguin-based case study taking readers from the theory to the practice of evaluation. The four modules cover evaluation types and preparation for evaluation, understanding your programme or service, measuring change and examples of indicators, and finally information on planning, commissioning and managing an evaluation.

The handbook would be most useful for those at the beginning of their evaluation journey - be they advocates, commissioners, users or those involved in evaluation capacity strengthening - and includes pointers to many other resources and websites if more detail is required.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

The resource had its origins in face-to-face training materials, and has been refined after feedback from peer reviewers and from organisations working in the social sector.

It arose from the need for service providers and funders to talk the same language when contracting and managing for outcomes. The guide is intended to introduce the concepts, enabling people to develop their evaluative thinking.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The handbook is an entry level guide aimed at demystifying evaluation for people encountering it for the first time. It aims to provide clarity with good humour. (And penguins.)


Collins, I., Smith, V., Debski, S., Haughey, K. & O'Kane, D. (2017). Making Sense of Evaluation: A handbook for everyone. Superu. Retrieved from:

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