Mindset and attitude matters
The mindset you bring to evaluating and building evidence is important.
Common concerns about evaluating include fear of being judged, choosing the best approach, the resource and effort required to build reliable evidence and capacity to do the work required. These are legitimate concerns, but the benefits of reflecting on your work and demonstrating its value are many.
|Evaluation is too hard and time-consuming.
|Evaluating puts a spotlight on your purpose, what is working, what isn’t and the difference you are making. The time, effort and resource required should be fit for purpose - weighed against what it can deliver for you and the people you serve. Ideally, evaluative processes are built into everyday work, are kept as simple as possible and provide real time feedback loops. Invest in building your evaluative skills and capacity and find the right outsiders who can help.
|Gathering evidence takes resources away from the real work. We don’t have the resources to do it.
|It is in your interest to gather information that improves your work, makes best use of resources and shows its impact. This is fundamental to the real work of community change. Make sure you include and cost evaluation related activity into work plans and budgets. Not evaluating affects real lives and can compromise ongoing funding or viability.
|Evaluation might make us look bad.
|Looking bad is a common fear – yet the greatest lessons tend to come from overcoming challenges and failure. Learn from what doesn’t work and frame success around being open to feedback and adjusting accordingly.
|Evaluation is something to do at the end or is a one-off.
|While some types of evaluation are a one-off, such as summative evaluation, much evaluation is ongoing, small scale and focused on making improvements. It’s part of the process. It lets you track over time what you are doing, how well you are doing it and what difference you are making.
|Evaluation is done to us by outsiders or is the domain of experts.
|While some evaluation requires the neutrality or skills that independent evaluators can bring, much evaluation is done in-house, for internal purposes. Build commitment and capacity within your organisation to reflect on your work and show its value.
Sometimes it can be useful to get someone from outside the organisation to help with evidence building. When is this necessary and what are the options?