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How do you like your evidence?

Evidence is information that’s used for a purpose. In evaluation it helps us answer questions such as ‘Did we make a difference?’ ‘When did we make the most difference?’ and ‘What did we learn?’

But is any evidence better than other evidence?

We say that good evidence is useful evidence, and a key question is: ‘good enough for what?’ It depends on context, purpose, and the decision you want to make.

For example, if you want to shape a service round an individual’s needs, that person’s experience is crucial. If you want to roll out a national programme for many individuals at great expense, then you might need more than personal testimonies.

It’s all in the mix!

You might need to gather and present a different mix of evidence for different purposes.

  • to prove to yourself and others that you’ve made a difference,
  • to plan or improve your services or
  • to share your learning with / influence others.

To some extent it might also depend on personal preference (yours and others you are trying to convince). You might be more drawn to numbers or more drawn to stories. You might be more or less risk averse (need more or less evidence). You might be driven by other factors (emotions, politics or very practical factors like budget).

So, be honest: how do you like your evidence?

Think of a time when you made a big decision about something (a purchase, a commitment, a judgement).

  • What kinds of information did you draw on?
  • Who else was involved or influenced your decision?
  • What was good enough for you or them?

What does this tell you about how you and others use evidence in decision making?

Throughout the next 4 months ESS will be putting a spotlight on evaluation evidence. What it is, how to analyse evidence, using evidence (your own and others) in different ways (planning, improving, reporting, influencing).

Look out for our webinar ‘How good is your evidence?’

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