Evaluation is a real friend to the public engagement professional, and understanding its value and its use is a really important skill.
Evaluation can help you in several ways:
- It can help your planning, ensuring that you think carefully about what you are aiming to achieve, and how you will achieve it;
- It can support your learning, by providing a way to pilot approaches and explore if and how they work, and how they could be improved. It also helps you avoid making big mistakes;
- It can help you work out if you are achieving what you set out to achieve;
- It can help you evidence the value of your work to others.
To be effective it is important to:
- Use evaluation strategically. It is useful to target your evaluative effort, and to be as efficient as possible. For example, it is no use gathering lots of evaluation data if you don’t have time to analyse and use it.
- Not be afraid of what evaluation might tell you. Whilst we all long to be really impactful in our work – we need to be realistic too. Whilst it is hard to discover things aren’t working – this is much better than ploughing more and more time into an ineffective approach, and assuming all is well.
- Understand who you are evaluating for, and ensure that you are one of the intended audiences.
Working as an engagement professional, you will need to focus your attention on three key aspects of evaluation:
- Supporting researchers to evaluate their public engagement work;
- Developing effective evaluation of engagement programmes that you support or deliver;
- Exploring the effectiveness of your support programme.
To help support you we have created the following resources:
- Evaluation overview: an introduction to evaluation
- Evaluating your public engagement activity or programme: a guide to evaluating public engagement projects
- Evaluating your public engagement support programme: a guide to help you evaluate your support programme and to monitor culture change in your institution