When you think about utilization-focused evaluation, what do you focus on? Participatory design is one key element—building shared understanding of why we’re evaluating a program, ensuring we’re asking the right questions based on the target audiences’ needs, and planning the data we will use to answer those questions together with the data’s end users. Another element is getting the right people “in the room” for data collection. Validating emerging findings with the intended audience—before writing the report—is a third good practice.
In our latest resource in the EnCompassing Evaluation series, Zachariah Falconer-Stout and Jonathan Jones look at the specific role of evaluation recommendations in ensuring utilization-focused evaluation.
Recommendations: A bridge between evidence and action
The purpose and role of evaluation recommendations, and how to develop them, is the subject of much discussion among evaluators and practitioners in the global development community. In this new resource, we clarify what EnCompass’ evaluation teams mean when they use the word “recommendations.” We also discuss our approaches and good practices to ensure these recommendations are useful and actionable.
Put simply, we see recommendations as the bridge between evidence and action—how the evaluation’s target audiences could use evidence to improve a program. But not all recommendations are created equal. The best recommendations have certain characteristics that make them useful for decision makers. This resource starts by demystifying those specific characteristics. It then examines EnCompass good practices around co-creating recommendations with intended users, organizing recommendations for action, and managing potential bias—in short, the “how” in how an evaluation team achieves those utilization-supporting characteristics. Take a look.
The resource does assume you have some knowledge and a working vocabulary in evaluation practice. Think of it as a sort of in-depth primer, documenting how EnCompass approaches essential stages in the utilization-focused evaluation process.
How to Use This Resource
In creating this resource, we took inspiration from conversations with our colleagues in Peru, where EnCompass is a USAID implementing partner supporting monitoring, evaluation, and learning across the mission’s portfolio. We designed the content with evaluators, students of evaluation, program designers, implementers, funders, policymakers, and researchers in mind.
We invite all of you to explore the content, as well as the resources linked throughout the document. And, we hope you’ll let us know how you are using it to incorporate a strong utilization focus in your work.
Ready to Learn More?
Be sure to visit the EnCompass Learning Center’s course catalog for upcoming courses to build your skills in evaluation and related practices. And, don’t miss these other products in the EnCompassing Evaluation series—all free to download:
- The Virtues of Virtual MEL
- An Evaluator’s Guide to COVID-19
- Mapping Outcomes: Embedding evaluation in the life of an organization
Zachariah Falconer-Stout, Jonathan Jones, and Jaime L. Jarvis contributed to this post. Graphic created by Crystal Cason.