Starting with the end in mind
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Where do we want to end up?
In many of my early evaluation projects, we would take our best guess at what data to collect and what to report. We were thoughtful, mind you, and clients often had very specific things they wanted to measure. But many times, we got to the end of the project and realized the story we could tell, based on the evaluation results, was not the same story our stakeholders and partners needed to know.
What to do instead? Start with a communication plan.
A communication plan outlines the various audiences for your evaluation work, what they might need to know or what decisions they might make based on the story you tell, and how to communicate that story to them. In this way, you can kind of think of them as consumers. What do they need from you?
Starting out by clarifying what each group will need to know or do as result of the evaluation is the core of creating a utilization-focused evaluation in our work at Aspect. Understanding how they best take in information and when is also key. Long reports? Slide decks of charts? When do they need that information to make timely decisions?
We find that this process of clarifying the communication plan as the first step of building a Learning Agenda helps drive every part of the process. Understanding what our audiences need from the beginning helps inform everything from how we determine the overarching evaluation questions, to making sure we turn those last minute requests for just one more kind of final product into a part of a comprehensive plan.