27th October, 2017

Creating a culture that values monitoring and evaluation

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how to encourage beneficiaries to give feedback on the difference that services have made for them, and in turn, how to get frontline staff to gather their feedback as part of monitoring and evaluation. This can be challenging on both fronts, when beneficiaries are hard to pin down and form-filling is the last thing on everyone’s mind.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of undertaking an evaluation of one service where some managers strike the balance very well. Among the many things that impressed me was how two managers in particular were phenomenally successful at gathering user feedback. They had clearly embedded a culture of evaluation and impact measurement within their service.

So I asked what they did to generate so much data on ‘difference made’ from beneficiaries. Evermore so because they support families at the “worst time of their life”.

I think that their responses, combined with my top tips, can be applied in many service delivery settings.

Start with the basics and make it easy

Make it easy for beneficiaries to use your feedback tools. Within this project there is one simple mechanism for gathering feedback, which works best for them on paper. There is a bit of admin time entering the answers onto an online system, but when done bit-by-bit it is not as onerous. Staff immediately attend to any minor improvements.

If beneficiaries are having difficulties expressing themselves, it can be helpful to use more informal techniques, such as creative media to help them to express how they are feeling at different points along the project.

Involve others in developing evaluation systems

Frontline staff, managers and fundraisers should be involved in devising a framework and systems to measure difference made. This will help to create workable tools and systems. Even better, involve beneficiaries, particularly when testing the surveys and tools that they will be using.

Staff tell users of the service I reviewed how important it is that the charity receives feedback on their service and that it helps them to secure funding.  But this is not just about ticking boxes on a funder report – it’s about achieving their purpose, and focusing resources where they will make the biggest difference.

Set your expectations

‘Taking responsibility for impact and encouraging others to do so too’ is Principle 1 of the Code of Good Impact Practice.

Gathering feedback is part of the high standards expected within this project that I reviewed. Targets are set on the number and proportion of feedback forms that they should receive. This is taken very seriously by these managers, who “will not fail this target”; it is monitored through staff performance reviews because they want the service to be the best it can be.

Share results with frontline staff and involve them in the learning

When members of your team are clear what positive impact they are having, it can lead to increased engagement, morale and productivity.

Be mindful that when you do share results, not everyone ‘gets’ numbers. So when you share results with staff, and indeed funders, make sure you explain what they mean.  Use quotes and visual illustrations to help bring your data to life.

Then involve the whole team in thinking about what can be learnt from the results. Focus on the learning. And, where applicable, celebrate the organisation’s success!

Get in touch if you’d like to hear abut how I can help you to embed a culture of monitoring and evaluation within your organisation.


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