Project evaluation is as complicated (or simple) as you want it to be. In this series, we’ll walk you through the basics of project evaluation, advise how to plan for the process, and finally explore methods for evaluation and how to select the right options for your needs.
What is Project Evaluation?
Project evaluation is basically what it sounds like – the process of appraising a body of work you are in the process of completing or have actually finished. There are four key themes when it comes to evaluation:
- Effectiveness – Is the project/programme achieving its goals?
- Progress – Is the project/programme meeting milestones and moving towards goals?
- Celebrate – What worked well? What can you build upon to gain more value?
- Recalibrate – What were the challenges? What adjustments should be made?
Why invest time and resources into evaluation?
In the first instance, you might think ‘to satisfy a funding body’, but to our mind, that should only be one consideration (and actually not one of the core drivers for wanting to know the impact of the activity). A culture of valuing and prioritising evaluation is a sign of a really healthy, future-focused organisation, as understanding performance and impact is critical to continuous improvement. Evaluation offers the opportunity to:
- Identify lessons learned and improve practice
- Share learnings with stakeholders
- Check progress and refocus on priorities
- Check continuation of need
- Identify strengths and weaknesses
- Assist with future planning
- Demonstrate the value of the use of resources
What are the principles of authentic evaluation?
If your organisation is serious about evaluating projects and wants to genuinely understand the impact of your work, there are some key principles to embed in your approach to evaluation:
- Ongoing Evaluation – a continuous process (not ‘one and done’) and informs future planning and implementation.
- Authentic Evaluation – engaging processes that genuinely involve those impacted.
- Accountable Evaluation – commit to transparency and sharing your progress with stakeholders and the community.
- Commit to Change – a willingness to challenge ineffective practices and policies and identify strategies to address these.
- Celebrates Success – acknowledges achievements and identifies best practice to replicate.
So, that’s the theory. What about project evaluation in practice? We’ll explore the evaluation planning process in the next post in the series.