Some thoughts on Learning from Evaluations

Speaking evidence to power

Reporting evaluation results and communicating them effectively to policymakers and program managers is critical for improving uptake at the policy level and programming. By following the recommendations outlined in this article, evaluators can safeguard that their evaluation results are clear, concise, and actionable, and that they are communicated in a way that is engaging and relevant to the target audience. Ultimately, effective reporting and communication can help to improve the impact and sustainability of policies and programs, leading to better outcomes for the people they serve.

Evaluation is a crucial aspect of any policy or programming cycle. Evaluation results provide valuable feedback on the effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of a policy or program, and they are important for decision-making and accountability purposes. However, presenting evaluation results in a way that is understandable and actionable to policymakers and program managers can be challenging. This article presents recommendations for reporting evaluation results and communicating them to improve uptake at policy level and programming.

Recommendations for reporting evaluation results

Use clear and concise language: Evaluation reports should be written in clear and concise language, avoiding technical jargon and acronyms as much as possible. The use of simple language can make evaluation results more accessible to policymakers and program managers who may not have a technical background.

Focus on key findings: Evaluation reports should focus on the key findings, highlighting the most important results and their implications for policy or program design. This can help policymakers and program managers to prioritize the areas that require attention and resources.

Use data visualization: Data visualization can be a powerful tool for presenting evaluation results in a clear and accessible way. Charts, graphs, and tables can help to illustrate key findings and make the results more engaging and understandable.

Provide context: Evaluation results should be presented in the context of the policy or program being evaluated. This can help to explain why certain outcomes were achieved or not achieved, and can also help to identify areas for improvement.

Give useable recommendations: Evaluation reports should include clear and actionable recommendations for policymakers and program managers. Recommendations should be based on the evaluation findings and should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Recommendations for communicating evaluation results

Identify the target audience: Communication strategies should be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the target audience. For example, policymakers may prefer to receive a summary of the evaluation results in a brief, easily digestible format, while program managers may be more interested in detailed technical reports.

Use multiple communication channels: Different stakeholders may have different preferences for communication channels. Communication strategies should use a mix of channels, including face-to-face meetings, written reports, presentations, and social media.

Engage stakeholders early: Engaging stakeholders early in the evaluation process can help to build trust and buy-in, and can also ensure that the evaluation is relevant and useful to the target audience. Stakeholders should be involved in the design of the evaluation and in the interpretation of the results.

Use storytelling: Storytelling can be a powerful tool for communicating evaluation results in a way that is engaging and memorable. Stories can help to illustrate the impact of the policy or program on real people and can also help to generate empathy and support for the program.

Follow-up and feedback: Following up with stakeholders after the communication of evaluation results can help to ensure that the results are being used and to address any remaining questions or concerns. Soliciting feedback can also help to improve future evaluation processes.

How to improve uptake of evaluation results?

Power to the evidence!

By taking some steps, policymakers can overcome common hurdles in using evaluation evidence to steer their policies and programs, leading to more effective and impactful outcomes for the communities they serve.

Despite the importance of evaluation evidence, policymakers often face hurdles in using this evidence to steer their policies and programs. Some of the most common hurdles include:

Limited access to evaluation evidence: Policymakers may not have easy access to evaluation evidence due to limited resources, lack of transparency, or difficulty in interpreting the evidence.

Complexity of evaluation evidence: Evaluation evidence can be complex and difficult to understand, especially for policymakers who may not have a technical background.

Political pressures: Policymakers may face political pressures that prioritize short-term gains over long-term impact, making it difficult to use evaluation evidence to guide policy decisions.

Organizational culture: Organizational culture can also pose challenges to using evaluation evidence, as some policymakers may be resistant to change or may prioritize their own preferences over evidence-based decision-making.

To overcome these hurdles, policymakers can take the following steps:

Invest in evaluation capacity: Policymakers can invest in building evaluation capacity within their organizations, including training and support for staff to use evaluation evidence in their decision-making processes.

Improve data and evaluation systems: Policymakers can also invest in improving data and evaluation systems to make evaluation evidence more accessible and understandable.

Foster a culture of evidence-based decision-making: Policymakers can work to foster a culture of evidence-based decision-making, including promoting the use of evaluation evidence in decision-making processes and incentivizing staff to use evidence in their work.

Engage stakeholders: Policymakers can engage stakeholders, including program staff, evaluators, and beneficiaries, in the evaluation process to build buy-in and support for the use of evaluation evidence.

Communicate evaluation evidence effectively: Policymakers can also work to communicate evaluation evidence effectively, including using clear and concise language, highlighting key findings and implications, and providing actionable recommendations.

Policy makers might be humans too

Individual perceiving capabilities are crucial for effective communication and uptake of evaluation results at policy level and programming. Here are some additional recommendations that focus specifically on improving individual listening capabilities:

Practice active listening: Active listening involves paying close attention to the speaker, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to ensure that you have understood the message correctly. Practicing active listening can help to ensure that you fully understand the evaluation results being presented, and can also signal to the speaker that you value their input and are interested in their perspective.

Employ empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Developing empathy can help you to better understand the context and perspective of the speaker, which can make it easier to understand and relate to the evaluation results being presented.

Cultivate an open mind: Keeping an open mind can help you to approach the evaluation results with curiosity and a willingness to learn. This can help you to better understand the speaker’s perspective and to identify areas of agreement and potential collaboration.

Manage your biases: We all have biases that can influence our perceptions and interpretations of information. Being aware of your biases and actively managing them can help you to approach the evaluation results with a more objective and open-minded perspective.

Practice reflection: After listening to the evaluation results, take some time to reflect on what you have heard and what it means for your policy or program. Reflecting can help you to process the information more deeply and to identify areas for further inquiry or action.

By focusing on these individual listening capabilities, policymakers and program managers can better understand and incorporate evaluation results into their decision-making processes, leading to more effective policies and programs.