Know why you need evidence

Purpose and Outcomes

Design your evaluation; consider its purpose, context, audience and use.

Know why you need evidence. You have to work out what you need to do and how. It may be to figure out how the project will benefit and affect your users; how to make best use of resources; how to prove value for money; identify effectiveness and how to adapt and improve.

Keystone Accountability outlines six main reasons why social organisations assess their work:

  • To improve projects.
  • To build capacity and promote civic engagement.
  • To demonstrate results and social return on investment.
  • To inform strategy.
  • To sustain legitimacy across stakeholders.
  • To inform society.

It is important that main stakeholders agree on the purpose of an evaluation and that you address any disagreements.

See also logic models and theories of change to help identify why you evaluate. 

As part of designing your evaluation, identify your key evaluation questions:

  • Describe the activity or initiative – what is the ‘it’ we are evaluating?
  • How much and how well are we doing it – quantity and quality?
  • What is or is not working and effective?
  • What is changing – impact?
  • How do participants and stakeholders feel about it?
  • How can we improve or adapt to make a greater impact?
  • What does it all mean going forward?

Context, audience and use

Some other things to consider when designing evaluation include:

  • The level of complexity.
  • The community, political, sector, organisational and funding contexts.
  • Who the audiences for the evaluation are and what they would wish to know.
  • What it will be used for and when, making sure the timing of evaluation will influence key decision making points.


Design For Use

How to use your findings

Introduction to Outcomes

In the context of community organisations working for positive change, an outcome is the result of action taken – a goal achieved as a result of activities.

Government funders emphasise achieving outcomes (results) rather than focusing on outputs – which in this context might be the number of people participating in a programme or using in a service.

Outcomes can be achieved at a number of levels, as follows.

Further resources

An Outcomes Toolkit, part of a Measuring Change Toolkit (Wales), this is a useful and accessible introduction

Level Outcomes Outputs
Individual A person reports changing their understanding and behaviour as a result of participating in a programme. A person participated in the programme.
Whānau A whānau who previously had significant debt complete a series of financial literacy sessions and are subsequently able to balance their budget, pay off debt and start saving. A whānau completed the series of financial literacy sessions.
Group Women from across the city participate in a community gardening group and start growing their own kai at home to feed their family. A community gardening group was established.
Women participated in the group.
Community Neighbourhood residents set a goal of involving at least 500 people in six weekly neigbourhood events over the next year to help build trust and confidence in the community. The majority of residents report substantial increases in positive interactions with their neighbours by the end of the year and higher levels of trust. Six weekly neighbourhood events were organised over a year. 300 people in total were involved over the six weeks.
City/District/Region A local authority raises voter turnout in low income neighbourhoods through a doorkocking and education campaign. Voting increases in these neighbourhoods by an average of 25% compared to other neighbourhoods. Door knocking and public education voting campaign undertaken.
Iwi/Hapū A hapū entity aims to have 100 hapū members give up smoking over 12 months by providing free patches and promoting smokefree lifestyles through social media and marae-based events. Seventy hapū members give up smoking as a result of the project. Free patches are provided.
Social media campaign is undertaken.
Marae-based events are held.

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