An introduction to the third stage of the monitoring and evaluation cycle – internal and external evaluation
What is evaluation?
Evaluation is about using monitoring and other information you collect to make judgements about your project. It is also about using the information to make changes and improvements.
Your monitoring information is likely to contain:
- profile information on your users
- basic project record keeping, such as the minutes of meetings and case records
- statistical information on take-up of services
- feedback sheets from training courses and workshops
- diaries and other records of events
- complaints and compliments from users.
When you evaluate, you will use this information, but often you will need to carry out additional data gathering. Your monitoring information will probably suggest further questions that need an answer. Evaluation often uses monitoring information that has been produced over a period of time. However, this is not always available, and evaluation may use one-off methods of enquiry. Often the best combination is bringing together regular monitoring data with additional information gathered against specific key questions.
You need to think clearly about where the focus of the evaluation will be and who and where you want to obtain information from. Make sure you set enough time aside for this additional information gathering. Questionnaires take time to develop, and should be tested with a small sample from your target group to see if they will capture the information you want. Interviews take time to organise and even longer to write up and analyse.
An organisation or project should think about evaluation from the start, so that monitoring can be carried out with evaluation in mind.
Monitoring and evaluation not only measure how well you are doing, but also help you to be more effective. Effective monitoring and evaluation will help your organisation to provide services of the highest possible quality, and embody the highest standards of integrity, credibility and accountability. They will make sure that you are working with the greatest possible effectiveness and efficiency, that you provide value for money and, above all, that the work you do will make a real difference.
There is a significant difference in approaches to evaluation. Some stakeholders may value a ‘scientific’ approach, looking for hard measurement and objective evidence. Others may value evaluation that encompasses description and different perspectives.
Who carries out evaluation?
Who carries out the evaluation may partly depend on the amount of money you have available for it. There are other issues to consider, such as whether your organisation values building skills of analysis and reflection internally or whether it values involving users.
Information on evaluating your impact, social auditing and social return on investment (SROI).