So, you have just completed an external evaluation process report – what now?
by Patrick Regan
To help ensure an external evaluation is not just another dusty report in a filing cabinet, there are a few steps organisations can take to help ensure they get the most out of their external evaluation reports. You may not need to follow all the suggestions in this blog, but it is worth thinking about which might be of value for your organisational context and learning goals.
An evaluator’s recommendations should not be seen as something the organisation is obliged to implement or agree with – they should serve as a jumping-off point for further reflection and considering if the proposed recommendations are feasible or useful.
In this way, the independent perspective and expertise of the evaluator can be paired with the in-depth knowledge and experience of the team implementing the organisation’s work – and hopefully, key learnings are extracted, and recommendations are meaningfully engaged with.
1. Communicate Findings to Stakeholders
Many stakeholders would have taken time and energy to participate in the evaluation process so its best practice to make sure findings are communicated back to them.
Not only does sharing findings and learnings help to show that you value their contribution and engagement, but it gives them the chance to object to findings which relate to any impact claimed and to learn themselves from the findings, making the process more of a conversation and exchange rather than an extraction. Plus, it makes them more likely to participate in future evaluations- a win-win.
Communicating these findings could be in the form of a blog, email, video, or even a meeting where stakeholders are present and can exchange their perspectives.
2. Reflect and Respond
You should review the recommendations proposed and organise them. This could be organised into:
- Recommendations you support
- Identifying any recommendations, you do not support
- Recommendations you would like to implement but do not currently have the resources/capacity to
- Recommendations you support and can realistically implement
This process might also lead to additional ideas or internal recommendations which might respond to the evaluation findings in different ways.
3. Make an Action Plan
Once you have identified the recommendations you plan to implement, it can be useful to create a brief action plan which clearly identifies who is responsible for implementing each recommendation, and a timeline to implement the recommendation. This action plan (and updates on it) can be used as a key paper for your staff team, senior management or board members to review at meetings to ensure accountability of implementation.
See this useful template and guide!
4. Develop a Management Response
The main purpose of drafting a ‘Management Response’ is to create an internal formal document to help contextualise the findings and recommendations should someone be looking back onto the report in years to come.
It is common practice to develop a short (1-2 page) management response to an external evaluation summarising the key learnings that are of most interest and significance for your organisation. It should also highlight any evaluation findings which you think are ill-informed or not truly reflective of the programme evaluated.
Finally, your response should document your intended next steps in response to the evaluation (I.e., which recommendations you will implement, which you would like to implement but cannot, which you do not deem suitable to implement).
You might also choose to document new evaluation questions which arise as a result of these findings, or areas in which you would like to know more about, as this will help to frame and inform future evaluation exercises and help future external evaluators best understand how they can add the most value.
A management response is particularly useful for evaluations which will be shared with existing or potential donors, so that the organisation’s perspective on the findings is documented and their intention to learn from the findings is shared.
Remember, the idea is to make sure your report gets shared and meaningfully engaged with- but most of all, to find a balance that works for you between reflection, objection, and action, when considering your recommendations.
Be sure to read our Blog: Accountability in Evaluation – Accountable to Who?
Rights Evaluation Studio provides a range of services including project design, strategy, monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how we can help you to review, update or develop monitoring and evaluation systems that work for your organisation.