M3.07. Conducting evaluation of the mentoring process

5. Summarise, Communicate and Reflect on Evaluation Findings

Evaluation findings can be communicated in many different ways to disseminate the results of your evaluation and tell the story of your programme. You might have a standard format that you use for presenting your evaluation findings, nevertheless, you should know why some formats for displaying and communicating your findings could be more effective than others.

There also are various options for displaying your evaluation findings and the field of data visualisation and visual analytics has grown due to the availability of large amounts of data along with technology advancements in accessing, handling and displaying data. Ultimately you need to remain focused on what you want to communicate, why and to whom.
Attending to this stage of the evaluation process is key because effective summary and communication of evaluation findings helps:

  • Disseminate knowledge
  • Facilitate understanding
  • Confirm or challenge theories or previous ways of thinking
  • Inform decision-making and action

It's not necessary to wait until the end of the programme to share findings and insights. You can share findings in the middle of your programme as long as you clarify that they are interim, preliminary findings.

Communicate and Report Your Evaluation Findings
What to Ask Before Putting the Findings Together
After data collection and analysis, you need to determine how to effectively summarise your findings so that you can sufficiently communicate your findings to your stakeholders. Sometimes, you could have much more data than you possibly can share effectively.
To help you with the process, complete the following table.

Your answers to these questions will help determine the content and format for summarising and communicating the results and impact of the program.

Tips for dealing with potentially negative findings:
From the outset, emphasise the use of evaluation for learning.

  • Involve key stakeholders in the evaluation's design and implementation and communicate throughout the evaluation process so there are no surprises.
  • Think about what to say and how to say it from the perspective of the stakeholders hearing about the evaluation findings.
  • Share any negative findings through a discussion format so you can effectively facilitate the learning process and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.
  • Don't start the report or discussion with negative findings. Instead, lead with positive findings and use words and phrases such as "accomplishments," "how we can do better" and "work in progress."

Keep It Simple
A key principle about effectively communication of your findings is to keep the presentation simple. Avoid cluttering information with lines, colours, shades or anything else that could improve attractiveness, but draws attention away from the content. To make the material easy for the reader to understand, include only the essential, critical information.

Ways to Display Your Evaluation Findings
If you have a communications plan and understand the importance of presenting findings simply, you can discuss the best way to display the findings based on quantitative and qualitative data. Data visualisation is a growing field and there are lots of resources about how to convey your data effectively. When displaying findings, your intention is to:

  • Draw the viewer's attention to the content, rather than the method, graphic design or something else.
  • Avoid any misrepresentation of the data.
  • Provide clear labels to.
  • Avoid small print.

Display Charts
Charts that are effective for showing patterns or trends over time include graphics that show the time on one dimension (e.g. x-axis), and the item for which change is being observed on another dimension (e.g. y-axis).
Charts that effectively show how responses are distributed along two dimensions include scatter plots and histograms
Charts that help compare two or more groups include bar charts, clustered bar charts, side-by-side bar charts and stacked bar charts

Reflecting on Your Evaluation Findings
Stakeholders are more likely to use the evaluation findings if they understand the purpose of the evaluation and have contributed to its design, implementation, interpretation and use of the findings.
However, to only summarise and communicate your findings is not sufficient. It's important to undertake the next step, which involves reflecting upon the findings and their implications and plan ways to put them to use – otherwise, the whole evaluation process loses value. Remember, evaluation must provide usable information to equip you to make informed decisions and shape your programs to be as effective as possible.
However, there are obstacles to reflecting upon the findings and planning ways to use them, such as:

  • Fear of being judged by stakeholders – especially if you must deliver unfavourable results.
  • Concern about the time and effort involved to convene stakeholders to discuss and reflect on the findings.
  • Resistance to change that could impact the way things have been done in the past.
  • Inadequate communication and knowledge sharing systems that affect how, when and with whom information is shared.
  • Staff who are not interested in the findings for various reasons.
  • Organisational limitations such as limited budget and staff capacity to carry out other functions deemed more important.
  • Concern about negative findings.

Use of Evaluation Findings
Once you have your findings, then you must agree on what you will use your finding for. For example;

  • Improving your strategy, initiative or programme
  • Improving accountability
  • Educating or building awareness
  • Leveraging support (e.g. extra funding)
  • Generating new knowledge (e.g. improve effective practice)
  • Replicating and scaling the programme
  • Developing recommendations for next steps
  • Adjusting the evaluation design and process