APC Week: Gabrielle Watson on Internal Utilization of External Evaluations

Greetings! I’m Gabrielle Watson, and I work at Oxfam America, a global humanitarian and development organization working to end social injustice around the world. As the Manager for Campaign Evaluation, I work with policy advocacy teams to assess their campaigns and facilitate learning. We periodically commission external evaluations. They are a big time and resource investment, so we want to maximize their value. We have thought a lot about increasing utilization of evaluation findings, and have a few ideas to share, based on a recent evaluation of our Access to Medicines campaign. My thanks to Jim Coe and Jeremy Smith for their suggestions!

Hot Tip: Design the evaluation to feed into internal deliberation and planning processes. The evaluation should provide adequate data and analysis to support structured reflection & decision-making among key stakeholders. Rather than asking for final recommendations, focus on clarifying the key questions the evaluation should answer. Don’t specify approaches or methods. Instead, invite evaluators to propose relevant approaches. And finally, synchronize your evaluation timeline to existing planning processes.

Hot Tip: Set up an evaluation steering group. This group helps identify critical areas of focus, deliberates on preliminary findings, and actively communicates the evaluation to key audiences. The group should be representative of key stakeholders. I included campaigners, senior managers, and an evaluation colleague who could bring a fresh eye to the methodology and process.

Hot Tip: Maximize interactivity during the evaluation process. The evaluation team shared early findings in an iterative, staged process. By the final report, we had already seen and discussed – and fed into and responded to – all the main findings. There were no surprises. A staged process allowed the evaluation team to adjust the methodology and focus of the evaluation along the way. Early feedback also helped identify gaps and misperceptions, and gave the team a sound understanding of the institutional context for the evaluation. They were better able to orientate later outputs in ways that enhanced their relevance and usefulness.

Hot tip: Plan on having various versions of the final product. From a bite-sized one-page headline findings, to a five-page executive summary, to a 15 – 20 page digest, to the full evaluation report with annexes. A slide deck version lets Steering Group members adapt and present it to different audiences.

Lesson Learned: The commissioning manager must play an active role facilitating information flows, and shaping deliberations, validation processes and dissemination. Budget 5 – 15% of your time during and after the evaluation to disseminate the report and make presentations to different groups.

Lesson Learned: Budget adequate time – probably at least three months from start to finish – for the iterative approach and adequate consultations.

We’re celebrating Advocacy and Policy Change week with our colleagues in the APC Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. aea365 is sponsored

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