In order to promote greater use of evaluation findings, the DAC Evaluation Network has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the communication of evaluation work. Use of evaluation findings for decision making and in support of evidence based policy, depends to a large degree on the ability of the evaluation community to communicate key findings to targeted audiences clearly, precisely and succinctly. Independent evaluation units increasingly make use of various knowledge products to repackage and highlight evaluation findings in a wide-range of formats. These efforts aim to make evidence readily available to target audiences in a timely manner (often in anticipation of upcoming decision making processes with related knowledge and evidence needs). Synthesis reports and systematic reviews which draw from previous evaluation work; short communiqués; videos; webinars; knowledge cafés; use of social media; and other methods of communication aim to make evaluation findings and recommendations better known. Effective communication involves reaching the right audience, at the right time, in the right way. The interconnectedness of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the broaden scope of development co-operation requires evaluation units to focus on communication, creating linkages across and between policy communities and ministries. Moreover, evaluation findings and evidence from evaluative work should be part of knowledge management practices within organizations.
Currently, all DAC members make evaluation reports or summaries of evaluation reports available online. The Network also maintains a central database, DEReC, with over 3 000 evaluation reports in a searchable online format.
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:
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.
For more examples of how the DAC EvalNet shares evaluation findings with the broader development community, visit us on Twitter.