In my fifteen years as an evaluator, I’ve written quite a few reports and thought a lot about what makes an evaluation report useful. In addition, I was a program officer at NSF in the Division of Research on Learning, where I was an evaluation client and strove to put evaluation findings to good use. Here are some thoughts on how you can ensure that evaluation information gets used.
Communicating early and often is the foundation for strong evaluation reporting and use. PIs initiate these conversations about reporting with their evaluators, expressing needs and expectations about when they’d like evaluation reports, about what, and in what form.
Would you like a brief report about data collection activities? Talk with your evaluator about how you’d like this to look, what you might do with the data, and how these reports will get included in the annual report. This could be just bullet points about the key findings, or it could be data tables generated from a survey.
Do you want monthly progress reports? Talk with your evaluator about a template for an easy-to-read format. This report might detail funds expended to date, highlight upcoming tasks, and offer a place to raise questions and issues that need timely management.
Would you like a report that you can share with community stakeholders? This could be a one-page list of significant findings, a three-page executive summary, a PowerPoint presentation, or even a shortened version of the full report.
PIs and evaluators can talk about what’s possible, how your choices will affect budget and how you plan to work together to ensure that the evaluation reports are targeted for maximum use.