Public dialogs on aid have shifted away from a focus on funding to understanding the actual results. Governments want to hear about the direct impacts of their development co-operation activities, and the general public expects a higher degree of transparency and accountability as to where and how effectively their tax money is being spent. In this context, evaluators play an important role in supplying credible evidence and informing decision-making. But in order to achieve the desired goals of evaluation, the findings and conclusions need to be communicated effectively. Effective communication involves delivering credible, transparent messages and presenting evidence in a clear, easily understood way that is immediately accessible to stakeholders.
The OECD DAC Network on Development Evaluation (EvalNet) supports its members to improve the ways they communicate evaluation results to facilitate their use for learning and accountability. This page provides a number of resources to support learning.
A DAC senior-level seminar on managing aid in April 2011 sought to understand how best to connect with policy makers and highlighted innovative approaches to sharing evaluation results. The Network's 12th Meeting the following June featured a joint session with the Development Centre's Informal Network of Development Communicators (DEVCOM) to delve further into these issues. Evaluation and communication experts again joined forces in a workshop on “Communicating Evaluation Results” organised by the UK's DFID and DEVCOM, in collaboration with EvalNet. The workshop created a forum where communication and evaluation experts could share experiences in using research and evidence from evaluation. During the workshop, the two communities sought to collaborate on facilitating the broader use of high-quality evidence to inform policy and practice, support accountability and communicate to various audiences the complex issues of effectiveness, impact and risk.
Tips on effective communication for evaluation departments
The agency’s evaluation policy should make communicating evaluation findings a top priority. When an evaluation is being planned, a dissemination and communication plan should also be developed. Different types of evaluations will aim to reach different audiences, requiring a targeted approach to communicate the results to the right people. Stakeholders have diverse information needs and are more comfortable using different media this should be taken into account when planning communication. Development programme staff and management are primarily interested in information about how they can improve their own work. Political leaders may be more interested in the overall results of development efforts and any reputational risks identified in the evaluation findings. Advocacy NGOs, beneficiaries and partners will want to see how the donor is performing against its commitments and what results have been achieved. Evaluation managers should plan ahead by thinking about potential audiences’ needs and interests early on.
It can be helpful to create institutional links between communication and evaluation units to facilitate sharing of information. Communication units should draw inputs from evaluation when producing annual reports or other products used to raise public awareness. Evaluation units, in turn, can draw on the expertise of communication professionals to get their messages across effectively.
Other useful strategies for improving the communication of evaluation findings include:
- Producing a variety of summaries focusing on different parts of the evaluation that are of interest to particular audiences for instance, a summary of findings on women’s empowerment for colleagues working on gender equality, or a short recap of lessons on implementation for programme managers. Grouping several evaluations on a particular theme or country and holding a workshop to discuss lessons and draw broader conclusions, can also be effective.
- Disseminating evaluation reports widely to staff and management through internal email and intranet systems, formal and informal workshops and briefings, or holding brown bag lunches or after work drinks events to discuss findings. Web-based conferencing technology can also be used to discuss the findings of evaluation reports with the country office involved and other neighbouring or interested country offices.
- Holding press conferences and public debates to launch evaluations, and using social media, video clips, podcasts, websites and email to build up networks of interested people and share reports in a timely way.
- Systematically sharing findings with the intended beneficiaries of development assistance and with media and civil society in developing countries. This requires building up networks of contacts and planning ahead to reach relevant partner audiences effectively, as well as translating the evaluation into local languages.
For more examples of how the DAC EvalNet shares evaluation findings with the broader development community, visit our social media sites Twitter and Facebook.
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