Kia ora koutou! My name is Jane Davidson and I run an evaluation consulting and capacity building business based in New Zealand. My main clients are NZ central government agencies across multiple sectors (health, education, leadership development, corrections, etc), but I also work with various other kinds of organizations and run evaluation training as well.
Hot Tip: Following on from Jack Mills’ aea365 blog post of 1/7 about project status reports, another that I find very useful is a skeleton report. This is an actual report, minus the content, that is written quite early in the evaluation project showing all the headings/sections and a brief description of which piece of information drops in where. This ensures that (1) the client knows exactly what they are going to get as a deliverable – and if the proposed product doesn’t quite meet their needs we can negotiate that earlier rather than have them disappointed once the report comes in and (2) as the evaluator, I (and anyone I am working with) can see exactly where each piece of evidence is going to fit into the overall puzzle – no more “spare parts” of data that I wasted informants’ (and my) time collecting AND no more “Oops, we don’t have quite enough evidence to answer this question but we have more than we need to answer that one!” I’ve found skeleton reports to be an incredibly useful discipline for making sure that every piece of evidence counts and that I do end up with all that I need to answer the evaluation questions.
Hot Tip: A lot of my reports I structure around the evaluation questions themselves, i.e. one major section for each question. In each section the criteria and evidence are laid out, transparently interpreted, and woven back together to provide a direct, evaluative answer to each question. Similarly, the executive summary consists of 2 pages with 7 +/- 2 short paragraphs, each of which presents one of the 7 +/- 2 overarching evaluation questions followed by a succinct, direct, and explicitly evaluative answer. There’s a bit more about these ideas in an earlier online Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation (JMDE) article and my recent AEA 09 presentation mentioned by Amy Germuth in her aea365 blog post of 1/1. And I’ll talk some more about this, if there’s interest, the week of 17-23 January (US time; that’s 18-24th for those on the Asia/South Pacific side of the dateline) when I’m online as AEA’s “thought leader” – please join the asynchronous discussion for the week!
As Jane notes, she will be the discussant for the AEA Thought Leaders Series the week of January 17-23 for those who wish to connect with her directly. Learn more and sign up at http://www.eval.org/thought_leaders.asp