How useful is evaluation?
Evaluation is intended to be useful. The purpose of evaluation is to answer questions, learn, improve, and inform decision making. It is important that evaluations are designed in a way that encourages their use. In this article we will look at how we can increase the usefulness of evaluations.
How can evaluation findings be used?
Evaluation can help in making decisions about a program or service. It can tell you when things are going wrong, so action can be taken. It can provide helpful information for making changes and improving a program. It can provide a different way of looking at something. It can also raise awareness, and drum up support for an initiative.
Most people agree about the importance of the evaluation being useful. For this reason, there has been a lot of research about the utilization of evaluation findings.
There are three broad types of evaluation use – direct, conceptual and persuasive.
What affects evaluation use?
Some of the things that can affect how far evaluation findings are used are:
- Relevance and timeliness of the evaluation report
- Communication between evaluator and users of the evaluation
- Commitment to evaluation use by evaluator and users
- Trustworthiness and plausibility of evaluation findings
- Involvement of users in the evaluation
How can we increase evaluation use?
There are a number of steps we can take to increase the usefulness of evaluations, and the use of evaluation findings. Central to this is involving the potential users of evaluation findings in evaluation planning.
Improving the usefulness of evaluations
The purpose of evaluation is to learn, improve, and inform decision making. Evaluation findings can be used to make direct changes to a program, project or service. An evaluation can also influence how people think about an initiative. To increase the usefulness of an evaluation it is important to involve the potential users of an evaluation in its planning. We must also ensure evaluation questions are relevant, and findings are presented in an effective, appropriate and timely way.