This afternoon I attended an excellent session on communicating evaluation results, delivered by Laura Bellissimo and Allison Meserve from Public Health Ontario. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm one of those health promoters that struggles to find evaluation interesting. I know it's important, and I always want it incorporated into everything that I do, but preferably by other people. However this workshop kept my attention the whole time, which is impressive given that it was right after lunch and the bread pudding at the BMO Institute for Learning is exceptional!
What I loved about this session is that it really made us all think about the communications aspect of evaluating, something that may not always be considered. We evaluate because we must, or because we want to ensure that our program works and is effective. We also want to be accountable to our stakeholders and funders. No one, wisely said Allison, conducts an evaluation for the purpose of writing a report.
It is interesting then, given the efforts that we put into not only designing and delivering the program/initiative but also the evaluation itself, that we don't always communicate results. Or if we do, it's in a way that resonates only to academics and government.
Allison and Laura gave us four key things to think about when designing our evaluation strategy:
Communicate results throughout the evaluation: This ensures that your stakeholders will find the results credible and increases the chances that they will use the results. Your final evaluation should not contain any surprises!
Consider various audience characteristics: Clearly identify who your stakeholders are and what methods of communication work best for them. Think about their familiarity with the program, their reading level, their attitude towards the program and their role in decision making.
Clearly define your communication objectives to successfully communicate your evaluation results: Determine why you want to communicate, to whom you want to direct your messages, and what you want to communicate.
Lots of options beyond a report: Think about social media, mass media, info graphics, poetry, theatre, and professional channels.
One thing that often arises when communicating evaluation results is what to do when the results are negative (or perceived as negative). The impulse might be to not share results that are negative. However, cautioned Allison, if we do not communicate these results, you do your stakeholders a disservice. Others can’t learn from your work if you don’t share it!
So, regardless of the results of your evaluation, communicating those results is critical for accountability, learning and transferability. Be sure to consider not only what and how you will evaluate, but how you will tell people about the results.
Now, go forth and evaluate. And brag about it!