Communicating evaluation to non-evaluators

This commentary was originally published in BetterEvaluation.

Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published a “10 things to know about evaluation” infographic, in support of the International Year of Evaluation. I was part of the team that drafted it and over 9 months, 8 meetings and 16 revisions, I discovered just how difficult it can be to communicate a complicated set of ideas to a non-expert audience.

The challenge of speaking to different audiences parallels the challenges of communicating evaluation findings.

The publication is aimed at people engaged with or interested in international development, but who don’t really know what evaluation is – or how it can be used.

Our thinking in this field has been shaped through years of conducting evaluations, our involvement in BetterEvaluation, our work with the Impact Evaluation Methods Lab and our long-standing hosting of the Outcome Mapping Learning Community.

We wanted to bring together what we’ve learned, dispel some of the myths about evaluation and break down barriers between the programme implementers and the evaluators.

The tricky thing was, we knew evaluators would be one of the first groups to jump on it – either because they want to pick it apart or (hopefully) because they see it as useful for communicating evaluation to clients and colleagues.

And so, it had to be technically sound but jargon free. For this reason, we had to abandon most technical definitions. While the communications specialists were protecting the accessibility of the messages, the evaluation specialists were protecting the nuances and accuracy.

In many ways, this paralleled the challenges of communicating evaluation findings: how do you capture variation and nuance, while presenting a concise set of clear messages?

Read the full article here