Why communicate widely?
An evaluation provides value if used to inform and guide improvements. Even when providing relevant and useful conclusions, an evaluation report wastes resources and loses potential impact if only read by a few people and then filed away.
Using your evaluation findings to make a difference requires communicating the key conclusions to stakeholders who can learn from your findings. It can also support you to make improvements in your activities, or help others in similar settings.
Being clear on why you want to communicate your findings is an essential starting point in developing your approach to communications.
Thinking about your target audience
One of the first and main questions that you must ask yourself is who are the target audiences? You should reflect on this when considering how to involve stakeholders as part of your Participatory Evaluation strategy.
Typically you may want to communicate findings with:
- People that benefit from your activities
- People in your organisation
- Other relevant organisations
- Policy makers
- The wider public
Think about how each audience will use the information. For example:
- Beneficiaries - so they feel acknowledged and valued and can guide future work.
- Funders - to demonstrate if and how outcome have been achieved to support future funding decisions.
Remember that not all stakeholders have the same information needs, and not all stakeholders want their information in the same format. You must be clear about your audience needs and then match those needs with an appropriate communication and reporting approach.
Ways to communicate the evaluation findings
There are various ways results can be communicated, so it is important to include a variety of formats tailored to audience information needs.
As mentioned in the creative reporting column above, writeshops consist of two- or three-day workshops where program participants, staff, and other stakeholders work together. Through discussion, stories that highlight evaluation findings, best practices, or lessons learned are identified. These stories are transcribed and edited.
When and how you communicate your results will, of course, depend on the availability of resources. In some cases you may need to prioritise efforts. For priority groups, invest the time in two-way communication (discussion groups, interactive presentations) that enable stakeholders to ask questions and provide feedback. Reflective events can be helpful in drawing out responses from key stakeholders to value their input and encourage their continuing commitment.
Think creatively about ways of reporting and sharing information.
Communicating your findings is a vital part of your self-evaluation activity, so ensure that you identify methods early and budget accordingly.
Developing your Communications Plan
It might be helpful to develop a communications plan like the one shown below. This should describe who, what, when, and how to communicate.
Example Communications Plan
The Life Changes Trust has also created a template, available for download here.
This type of structured approach will ensure that the right messages are getting to the right people at the right time and that the resources to do so are in place.
The Trust can assist funded organisations to formulate a Communications Plan and maximise the exposure that the activity and associated learning receives. The Trust will also work with fundees to promote their learning.
- Evaluation Support Scotland have produced Evidence for Success which provides guidance on using evidence to influence internal and external policy and practice.
- The Economic and Social Research Council online Impact Toolkit provides guidance on influencing work including social media use, events planning, publication and media relations.