An introduction to evaluation

At Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) we promote self-evaluation. By learning how to evaluate your own activity you will discover what works or doesn’t, and how to make use of that learning to measure the difference you are making.

We believe that there is no absolute standard for evaluation. What is good enough depends on what you need evaluation for and what is proportionate. However, good evaluation should align with our 5 principles for good evaluation.

Our focus is on outcomes. But we do not promote just a single evaluation tool, we encourage different and creative ways to engage people in evaluation.

For specialist data collection or analysis that you cannot do yourself, external-evaluation – which builds on your self-evaluation – could be used.

Self-evaluation is the process of:

  1. Defining outcomes that you want to see, and identifying indicators that show those outcomes are being met.
  2. Finding different ways to collect information about the difference you are making.
  3. Analysing your data, and reporting on your findings in a meaningful way, responding to the questions: what did we do? what difference did we make? what did we learn?
  4. Acting on your learning: celebrate successes, improve, and plan what to do next.

Focusing on outcomes and on evaluation for learning allows you to understand how effectively your services are being delivered.


  • Is rigorous when well designed
  • Can be more accessible for service users
  • Gives you real time learning

We produced a number of case studies highlighting some of the benefits of evaluation.  If you would like more information or would like to share how your organisation has benefited from evaluation, please contact us.

Check out our resources here and browse blogs.

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Evaluation Pathway

Navigating the evaluation pathway is one way of getting started or checking that you are progressing.

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