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The evaluation process

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Impact planning and evaluation can help voluntary organisations make their work more effective. The learning cycle shows how evaluation contributes to improving practice. Guidance on completing each stage of the cycle is provided throughout this section.

The learning cycle

What are the issues people face?

Understanding the issues experienced by your beneficiaries is the starting point for impact planning. Sometimes called a ‘needs assessment’, this involves reviewing the challenges your beneficiaries face so you’re best placed to respond. You can also consider the assets and resources that beneficiaries have, and where there are opportunities to involve them in developing solutions.

What difference do you want to make?

Next, identify the difference that you intend to make in response to the issues beneficiaries face. You can articulate short and medium term changes that will result from what you do (outcomes), or broad or longer-term effects of your work (impacts). You’ll review the extent to which you’ve made this difference as part of your evaluation later on.

Find out how to plan your impact and evaluation.

What will you do to make this difference?

At this point identify the products or services that you will provide (or are providing) to make a difference. You’ll assess your progress in delivering this work as part of your evaluation.

Find out how to plan your impact and evaluation.

How will you track your progress?

Next, monitor your work, using appropriate methods to collect information about what you are doing and the difference it is making.

Read about measuring your impact.

What have you learned?

At this point, analyse your data to make judgements about your work, generating clear evaluation findings. You can identify what difference your work has made, what has gone well and where you can improve.

Read about analysing data and reporting on your findings.

How will you use your findings?

Next, use your evaluation findings. They may help you engage with external audiences, communicate with funders and donors and improve your work.

Find out about ways to use your evaluation effectively.

For more information

Voluntary sector initiative Inspiring Impact sets out a series of principles for voluntary organisations looking to focus on impact in its Code of Good Impact Practice (pdf, 496KB).

You can also review and improve your organisation’s progress by completing Inspiring Impact’s Measuring Up! self-assessment.

Page last edited Jul 31, 2017

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