There is a very clear framework for collating evidence. It is known as a logic model or a theory of change. Within this model different types of evidence can be brought together in a coherent way. To work it needs to focus on an area of activity with clear aims and objectives. It then draws together background context, the inputs in terms of the amount and type of resource put in, outputs, the outcomes achieved as a result and what impact has occurred.
Overall this framework is a common evaluation language that should be understood when discussed within the organisation or with others, such as government or public sector partners. It can be used as the basis of developing robust business cases and can help iron out the aims and objectives of a whole range of activities.
Done well the use of this framework should present evidence in an easily understood way to a non-technical audience as well. The facts and figures are in there but you can use the information to help explain why you want to achieve something and how you plan to do it. In my experience the more you use the approach the less scary evaluation becomes. It is not a magic thing only a few people can do, but rather something everyone should have the skills to understand and use.
We are producing more data and analysis than at any point in human history. With so many competing voices it is no surprise that we are drawn to easily understood facts, headlines and charts. If you are making evidence-informed decisions you need to check the provenance. Within the Evaluation Workshop we went through exercises looking at real evidence and how to make those sometimes tough decisions on whether the evidence is robust or not. We need to understand what #REALNEWS looks like, and the only way to do so is to know where it came from and how it was put together.
Finally, and I think most importantly, an evidence-informed approach should aid organisations in embracing risk. It does this by supporting the development and implementation of activities from the initial idea to the final evaluation. This includes identifying what has worked in the past and what should work in the future, establishing how you will monitor and adapt activities while they are being implemented, and to be very clear on how you will judge impact. An evidence-informed approach helps you embrace complex and difficult risky issues with confidence.
I would recommend you attend the Evaluation Masterclass if you want to learn about how you identify, present, understand and use good quality evidence. It will support you to make the decisions you need to take and will build confidence across your organisation that there is a real impact in the work they do.
If you wish to attend, please email Sue at email@example.com - please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.