Six top tips for commissioning evaluations

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It may sound simple, but one of the keys to successfully commissioning an evaluation is being able to explain the program to an outsider, says Dr Carmen Huckel-Schneider, Principal Analyst with the Sax Institute’s Knowledge Exchange Division.

She joined with Duncan Rintoul, Principal Evaluator with the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation at the Department of Education to give a presentation entitled
Better commissioning for better evaluations’ at the
NSW Government Evaluation Conference in Sydney last month.

Six tips“A lot of people struggle to concisely describe their program and its essential elements,” Dr Huckel-Schneider said. “They can’t see the wood for the trees.”

She said it was important to build evaluation into programs early in their development.

The first step in successfully commissioning an evaluation was to explain the program well, followed by ensuring it had clear and reasonable objectives. It was also important to be able to explain how the program’s activities were expected to result in the desired outcomes.

However, Dr Huckel-Schneider and Mr Rintoul (pictured, right) warned against pre-empting the outcome of the evaluation. Rather, they advised those planning evaluations of programs to be open-minded both about what the evaluation may discover and about the methods or approaches to the evaluation that they may not be familiar with.

Finally, they said evaluations should be “commissioned for use”, with thought given to how the evaluation was likely to be used once it was completed.

“Who is going to find the evaluation helpful, and for what purpose?” they asked.

The conference, hosted by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, was attended by evaluation specialists, and senior staff responsible for policy and program design and management from across the public sector, universities, NGOs and consulting groups.

Other speakers outlined evaluation priorities for the NSW public sector, discussed recent developments to support quality evaluation of Government programs and shared examples of evaluation best practice of Government programs.

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