Updated: Jun 3
In the previous article I highlighted possible reasons why some evaluation reports are not being read. However, getting people to read the document is only half the battle. The ultimate goal is getting people to use the findings or engage in some behavior change after reading your evaluation report.
‘You led people to the report. They veiwed it, but refuse to consume it’
Here are a few ways to take your evaluation report from a dead, static document to a dynamic organizational learning tool.
1. Identify creative ways of utilizing the evaluation findings
A few years ago one of the organizations I support with Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) processes was having a particular problem. They are an international Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) working in the area of child protection.
In the past, several independent evaluations of the organisation’s operations and services were conducted. From these evaluations many key recommendations for the improvements were provided. Despite the rich source of information contained within the pages of the evaluation reports, the management felt like not much was being done with these documents. To let the reports gather dust was such a waste of the time, money and effort that went into producing them.
Persons were reading the reports (as there were several staff meetings to discuss the contents), but yet no meaningful change occurred. After these staff meetings everything went back to being business as usual.
What could they do to ensure that the staff actually did something with the latest evaluation findings? They were seeking an unorthodox and creative solution to their problem.
My answer was simple. I advised them to convene another meeting. They thought I was out of my mind to make such a proposal. Clearly I was not listening about the many times they have tried this without success.
I then added, ‘convene a meeting, but this time, move away from being a talk shop and use the meeting as an opportunity to form task forces that produce tangible outcomes’.
The evaluation report highlighted five major areas that the organisation could make improvements. Each task force represented one of these identified areas. Persons were free to join a task force where they felt they could be of the most value.
‘Cut through all the talk and take actions’
Their task was simple.
Each task force would take a few days to analyse the evaluator’s findings on this area, state the extent to which they agreed with the evaluator’s assessment of the issue and it was their job to come up with a concrete proposal on how to implement the recommendations. They would then present their findings to the other task forces who would then critically review all the ideas.
This exercise had remarkable results. The organisation’s highly successful’ social media campaign was the brainchild of one of these task forces. This task force was assigned with analyzing the evaluation findings that related to increasing the effectiveness of the organisation’s lobby and advocacy efforts.
Likewise, another task force conceived a Council as a response to the evaluation findings that the organisation could do more to solicit true participation of children.
The advisory council was also a phenomenal success. Young people were empowered by having decision-making authority that comes from sitting on the Supervisory Board and the Management Team of the organization.
These are just two examples of how programme staff not only institutionalized the findings from an evaluation report, but transformed the report into a living and breathing organic matter (figuratively speaking of course).
2. Use the Evaluation report to boost morale
“This is not the type of morale booster I had in mind”
Very few programmes or organisations are so bad that an evaluation only unearths negative issues. There is bound to be at least one thing that was well done and is worthy of being celebrated. Highlight those ‘success stories’ and ‘best practises’ from the evaluation report.
Let the evaluation report take centre stage at the next team building activity. Doing this does not ignore the negative aspects of the evaluation, but it does make persons more receptive to the other sections of the report that was less than stellar.
Remember the social media campaign that I mentioned earlier? Well, the organization had a big bash to celebrate its success. During the merry-making persons were reminded that the campaign was as a result of an evaluation report.
3. Embed the Evaluation Report into other organizational processes
Sometimes the reason there is no real uptake of the evaluation report is due to the ‘standalone nature’ of document. In other words, it is a document that persons have to make a conscious effort to read and then use.
However, imagine if sections of the evaluation report were ingrained in the organisation's Annual Reports, the Quarterly Reports, Work Plans, on the regular Staff Meeting agenda? Do you start to see the picture? The more ubiquitous the evaluation report is in the standard organizational operations, the higher the likelihood that its findings will be absorbed in the daily working life.
‘The Evaluation Report presented in different versions and formats’
The above tips are relevant for organisations that want to increase the use of the evaluation reports internally. However, it is more challenging getting external stakeholders to use the findings of the evaluation report. This is because organisations have a lesser degree of control on factors external to the organisation.
My final thought is that in order for there to be greater use of evaluation findings by staff, there has to be a managerial structure that supports and fosters a learning culture.
Please use the 'Comments' section to share your own tips for promoting greater use of evaluation findings for learning and critical reflection.