Edinburgh Local


Quite simply: always evaluate!

When it comes to evaluation, perfection can be the enemy of implementation and actually getting any results.

If you have social science research training, you may have excellent knowledge of designing measures and surveys that provide robust results. The reality is, however, that the most robust approaches to evaluation may not be very accessible to the individuals you’re engaging with. The most robust approach may also not be practically achievable in the setting you end up in.

Top tips from the Community Team are:

  • Know *why* you’re evaluating. If the purpose is simply formative (i.e. to improve your work) then robustness is probably less of an issue than if the results are to be reported as part of an academic research project. If the findings are to inform a business case, you may need hard numbers and a compelling story or two from people involved.
  • Know your audience. The languages they speak, their knowledge (or not) of technical terms, whether they are literate, their attention span or patience, how invested they are in what you’re doing, their available time, their self-confidence and how comfortable they are with giving negative feedback (especially if they’re identifiable) are just some of the things to consider.
  • Gather opportunistically as you go. Snap photos (with permissions, of course), jot down anecdotal observations and conversations, drag emails which offer useful insights into a specific folder. It is surprising how rich a picture this information can generate when brought together, and it is the sort you can rarely gather retrospectively.
  • Be nimble and flexible. Community engagement rarely goes to plan – the same goes for your evaluation.
  • Be creative. If your audience cannot write, for example, could drawing work?

Useful resources may include: