We talk a lot about “stakeholders” in evaluation. These are the folks who are involved in, affected by, or simply interested in the evaluation of your project. But what these stakeholders want or need to know from the evaluation, the time they have available for the evaluation, and their level of interest are probably quite variable. Here is a generic guide to types of ATE evaluation stakeholders, what they might need, and how to meet those needs.
|Stakeholder groups||What they might need||Tips for meeting those needs|
|Project leaders (PI, co-PIs)||
||Communicate your needs clearly to your evaluator, including when you need the information in order to make use of it.|
|Advisory committees or National Visiting Committees||
||Many advisory committee members donate their time, so they probably aren’t interested in reading lengthy reports. Provide a brief memo and/or short presentation at meetings with key findings and invite questions about the evaluation. Be forthcoming about strengths and weaknesses.|
|Participants who provide data for the evaluation||
||The most important thing for this group is to demonstrate use of the information they provided. You can share reports, but a personal message from project leaders along the lines of “we heard you and here is what we’re doing in response” is most valuable.|
|NSF program officers||
||Focus on Intellectual Merit (the intrinsic quality of the work and potential to advance knowledge) and Broader Impacts (the tangible benefits for individuals and progress toward desired societal outcomes). If you’re not sure about what your program officer needs from your evaluation, ask him or her for clarification.|
|College administrators (department chairs, deans, executives, etc.)||
||Make full reports available upon request, but most busy administrators probably don’t have the time to read technical reports or need the fine-grained data points. Prepare memos or share presentations that focus on the information they’re most interested in.|
|Partners and collaborators||
||See above – like with college administrators, focus on providing the information most pertinent to this group.|
In case you didn’t read between the lines—the underlying message here is to provide stakeholders with the information that is most relevant to their particular “stake” in your project. A good way to not meet their needs is to only send everyone a long, detailed technical report with every data point collected. It’s good to have a full report available for those who request it, but many simply won’t have the time or level of interest needed to consume that quantity of evaluative information about your project. Most importantly, don’t take our word as to what they might need: Ask them!
Not sure what stakeholders to involve in your evaluation or how? Check out our worksheet on Identifying Stakeholders and Their Roles in an Evaluation at (bit.ly/id-stake).