Blog: Evaluation Support Scotland changes mind about evidence!
Jane Marryat, Research and Communications Officer shares her thoughts on ESS's new wording on the Evaluation Pathway
You may not know but here at Evaluation Support Scotland, at regular team meetings and team development days, we often talk about evidence! What do we mean by it, do we use the word or even should we use it? What’s ‘good enough’ evidence or should we even use the term ‘good enough’? After all evidence is evidence! At a recent team development day ‘evidence’ was the focus of the day and we had a good opportunity to thrash out our views and experiences as a team. We quickly came to the conclusion that we did use the word evidence in training workshops and tailored support but perhaps not enough! We had thought that the word conjured up the idea of something formal and perhaps scary for some people, after all lots of people initially think about police evidence, evidence of wrong doing and police televisions dramas.
However the more we talked about the word we realised that it is the best word we can use when talking about what helps show convincingly the difference that is made. The discussions continued and on reflection, we came to think that the emphasis should be on gathering evidence for what? Third sector organisations need to gather evidence to make improvements in their services/projects and to inform decision making, as do funders and commissioners. Collecting evidence rather than information helps us focus on the purpose. It may be subtle but for us at Evaluation Support Scotland it has consequences!
Here at ESS we don’t like to let the grass grow under our feet so as Steven Marwick said in his New Year blog “we intend to help you be massively successful in 2016!” We are doing this partly by launching an even better core workshop programme on setting, measuring and reporting on outcomes. Taking our own advice we evaluated the core programme and have implemented some changes. These will be revealed in February. As preparation for this, all the training materials and support guides have been revised, reviewed and, in some cases, rewritten. Going through a process of revision is really useful because it is an opportunity to change things which may have outlived its usefulness or update language that may no longer resonate. Our evaluation pathway was developed a few years ago and helps us, and you, navigate the process of evaluation and show useful resources for each stage. Following on from our discussions about evidence we have decided that it is more accurate to use the word ‘evidence’ instead of ‘information’. Other word changes are ‘setting outcomes and indicators’ and ‘learning from (and acting on) results.
We may be pedantic but we do like to get it ‘right’ so we hope that our new revised Evaluation Pathway is clearer and has more meaning for you, who are on an evaluation journey around the pathway! However, we are open to the idea that people we work with may prefer a different word and that’s fine. We aren’t going to force anyone to use a word they don’t like!!
It would be useful to let us know what you think? Does ‘evidence’ work for you or do you prefer another word? If so, which word works best for you and why?
Email your comments to Jane Marryat: firstname.lastname@example.org
“The blog about using ‘evidence’ versus ‘information’ … totally helped my own thought process and conversations as I work with the organisations we fund around evaluation. The difference in the wording is subtle, but I found this useful” Colleen Souness, The Robertson Trust