Practical Action Planning for Evaluations with Impact

Some of the challenges for external evaluators like us are ensuring that our evaluation insights and recommendations are useful for clients, can be implemented (are usable), are ‘owned’ by our clients (and their partners), and ultimately go on to have a real impact.

 

Earlier in 2020, we completed a mid-point evaluation of a project funded by a stream of the National Lottery Community Fund (on behalf of a partnership of local agencies).  The project was mid-way through its five-year delivery span. The aim of the evaluation was to identify learning about effectiveness and impact of the project to date, in order to inform how success could be maximised for the remaining lifespan of the project.

Having synthesised and reported the main evaluation evidence, we shared and discussed the findings with a group of the project’s clients and former clients. Feedback from the group was incorporated into the final report.

Our final activity was a practical and interactive action-planning workshop with approximately 25 representatives of the partnership, clients / former clients, and wider stakeholders. In the first part of the workshop, we shared and presented our main evaluation findings and recommendations. This was followed by questions and discussion.

The second part of the workshop was led by the client lead partner, in which stakeholders prioritised our evaluation recommendations to reach consensus about which would be the most crucial in maximising the remaining impact of the project.  Small breakout groups explored how the agreed priority recommendations should practically be taken forward, identifying any challenges which may emerge and how these could be overcome.

The workshop was an excellent example of how evaluation can inform practical learning and have a tangible impact on the future of fixed-term projects, which are often delivered in complex and multi-stakeholder environments.