Improve your work

How can you use your evaluation findings to improve your work?

Robust evidence is essential for making informed decisions about the future. Used well, it identifies questions that still need to be answered, empowers you to learn from and improve what you do, and points to internal processes that could better support your impact practice.

Here we explain how to use your evaluation findings to improve your work. We also explore what it means to create a culture of continuous learning, so that evidence about what works becomes a routine part of life.

How to use evaluation findings to improve your work

You could use your findings to:

Improve your services. Understand what level of intervention achieves the best outcomes for the largest number of beneficiaries. Prioritise activities that are most likely to lead to positive changes and allocate resources accordingly. Stop or change activities that are not leading to the desired outcomes. Plan which elements of an initiative could be scaled up or replicated in other areas or by other organisations.

Reach your target audience. Consider any unmet need in your beneficiary group, or potential new beneficiary groups that could benefit from your work. You may need to change your eligible target group, the way you publicise your work, or how you deliver your activities.

Better engage with individuals. Outcomes data can be useful for looking at individuals as well as whole services. If a beneficiary is not achieving their desired outcomes, what could you both do differently?

Review internal processes. You may want to look at your recruitment practices, the training and support you offer staff and volunteers, your relationships with partners or referring organisations, and how decisions are made internally. Don’t forget to review your impact measurement processes, too, to ensure you’re collecting useful data in the best way possible.

What is an impact culture?

Impact measurement isn’t just about data collection. You need to create a culture where people are committed to using data to continuously learn and improve.

The table below helps you understand the kind of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours you need to have in place:

Knowledge Attitudes Behaviour
Have a complete understanding of your mission and how you plan to achieve this (see Plan section) Believe in, and be committed to, improving your programme or service. Seek ways in which things could be improved.
Understand how impact measurement can contribute to the objectives of the programme or service Be willing to change and adapt how things are done in order to achieve your mission. Collect and enter good quality, impartial data.
Understand the programme or service’s particular impact measurement priorities. Be curious about what the programme or service is achieving and whether this can be improved. Share results and learning honestly.
Understand your own role in impact measurement. Want to share what you learn with others. Discuss results with others.
Have the right analysis and interpretation skills for your role. Accept failure without blame. Try to see things from the perspective of intended beneficiaries.
Change what you do as a result of learning.

How to create an impact culture?

Here are some steps you could take to bring a greater focus on learning and improvement.

Have a clear plan for impact measurement: Map out priorities and research questions, sources and tools, roles and responsibilities, and timings and milestones. This will help you involve staff and users.

Communicate with people in your organisation: Share what impact measurement is, why it helps the organisation, and what your priorities are. It might help to share a simplified version of your plan and explore with staff how impact measurement might help them to do their job. Find out which arguments are most engaging for people and what barriers they think they might face.

Create buy-in: Involve staff, volunteers, and service users in your impact measurement
processes. You could hold workshops on your plan or ask a sample of staff to comment
on drafts of data collection tools.

Demonstrate how you use data to improve your work: You could share results and learning in internal communications and include impact measurement as a standing agenda item in team and board meetings. You could give people access to the data, so they can explore it for themselves, or set up a dashboard that shows information that is relevant to them.

Define clear roles and responsibilities: Make everyone aware of their role and responsibilities in impact measurement. For example:

  • Senior staff and trustees can promote impact measurement, set up systems, allocate resources, and communicate how the organisation is acting on what it has learned.
  • Managers can promote good impact practice, connect people who might learn from one another, take time to understand the results, and think about what can be done to improve the programme or service.
  • Frontline staff and volunteers are often responsible for service delivery and data collection, and can offer useful feedback about what is happening on the ground.
  • Beneficiaries should have opportunities to share their views and contribute to the development of the service.

Offer support and training for staff and volunteers: Defining clear roles from the start is a helpful way to identify who is leading on a project, who is coordinating data collection, who is responsible for data analysis, and so on. You may uncover skills gaps in the process. For example, you will need someone with data analysis skills to clean and manipulate data, and extract insights from it.

Offer incentives and promote impact measurement: You could embed impact measurement into performance and pay, recruitment, strategy development, project management, and volunteer management. Get people to act as ‘impact champions’, and use team meetings to highlight examples.

Make data collection and data use as easy as possible: Make processes simple -preferably part of the work itself – and provide immediate information that staff can use in their work. Shadow and talk to staff about collecting, reviewing, and sharing data. Survey staff or set up a feedback meeting to get views on the value and time required to collect and analyse data, and how to improve this.

Set up systems and processes for learning: Find ways to encourage and make it easy for people to share their thoughts. You could cover learning in team meetings and set up mechanisms – intranets and forums – for staff to share insights with each other.

Make sure your tools give you what you need: Check your tools for mistakes or glitches, and test the time it takes to carry out measurement. Pilot your tools with a sample of people who represent the population you want to get information from. Once your tools are live, keep testing them with a range of stakeholders.

Be open to mistakes and failure: Disappointing results should be examined, and staff should feel encouraged to do this. Reflect on how you currently share findings within your organisation and beyond. How do people respond to disappointing results? How do you explore what could have been done differently and focus on improvement?

Celebrate the positives: Recognise the team’s achievements, showcase success stories, and emphasise how your work makes a difference. Motivating staff and volunteers can make you more effective and more engaged in your work. Sharing achievements with beneficiaries can motivate them, too.

Adapted from content from Inspiring Impact partner NCVO

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