The Trust's commitment to a Knowledge into Action approach (see the Trust's Business Strategy for more information) means we want our evaluations to support a cycle of planning, acting, observing and reflecting.  This enables organisations to continue to learn and improve over time.

Self-evaluation should be a continual process, built into your annual work plan and daily routines.  Being ‘evaluation minded’ in this way helps us all to ask good questions that help us gather the relevant information to assess progress, learn, and improve.  This can help you to think about improvement and innovation rather than ‘proof’, and help everyone to stay curious.

The relationship between evaluation evidence, improvement, and innovation (explored in this paper by IRISS). Evaluation can be a driver of improvement and innovation.  Improvement and innovation are seen as well-informed risk taking and experimentation.  Innovation is not necessarily about big, bright, or new ideas but can be a dynamic and evolutionary process that copies, transforms and combines what already exists. 

Given that it’s unlikely that you will ever be 100% sure that something will work, in many ways it can be helpful to recognise that you are ‘always'piloting'– to see your efforts as small tests of change, pilots, prototypes, or experiments (see the Cathy Sharp publication in the Resources section, below).

Using evidence, testing it out in practice and generating further evidence of effectiveness is a way to learn, adapt, and innovate.  This can help organisations make decisions about resources and direction throughout the process of implementation.  

In summary, the best advice is that this evaluation cycle needs to:

  • Be as simple and relevant as possible
  • Involve staff who have contact with beneficiaries
  • Keep the experience, needs and priorities beneficiaries at heart
  • Engage beneficiaries in the design of the process and in deciding what is significant
  • Discover what’s working well to affirm existing practice and as a basis for improvement where needed
  • Value and capture the stories and the statistics
  • Make the data you already have work hard
  •  Find ways to analyse the data together in real time to support daily operations
  • Value the golden glitches – the mistakes, failures and flawed thinking that help grow understanding
  • Make honest claims of influence and impact


For a further discussion of the issues of evaluation, improvement and innovation see: