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Why you might not need a “robust framework”

Framework in fine fettle

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by third sector organisations is

“can you help us develop
a robust evaluation framework?”

(the other one is “we need an external evaluator – can you help?” but that’s for another day…)

If you think that sounds slightly daunting, then you are in good company!  We find it helps to keep evaluation language simple and clear with as little jargon as possible.  Terminology like “evaluation framework” can be confusing and a barrier in itself because it can mean different things to different people. So I would ask what do you mean by an “evaluation framework”?

“Robust” is another interesting word for us at ESS. A quick google search for synonyms throws up some humorous options: “hearty”, “muscular” or “in fine fettle” are my favourite!! Not making any assumptions I would ask – what would “robust” evaluation look like to you? Is it about making sure you don’t have any evidence gaps? Is it about having an evaluation plan in place?

One organisation working with vulnerable people particularly stands out to me. When they approached me with this exact question, I helped them to unpack the problem by asking questions like:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • What could this help you achieve?
  • What’s getting in the way of evaluation at the moment?
  • Where would you like to be in relation to evaluation?

By bringing together staff across a range of different roles (frontline and managerial) and running a series of tailored support sessions we helped them understand that the barriers were about getting frontline staff on board with evaluation and helping to build confidence in using a range of tools that would work in their settings.

We helped them identify that the priority was not about introducing a new framework (a technical solution) it was about communicating across teams (enabling change in behaviours or practice).

Our tailored support can help you identify what’s getting in the way of good enough evaluation and what the solution looks like – it’s not always what you think! You can find out more about tailored support for your organisation.

One way to test if your evaluation is in fine fettle (or robust) is to ask “is my evaluation useful?”.  For ESS, evaluation should be for learning.  For example, throughout the pandemic we have been supporting third sector organisations to use evaluation to learn about their response to the crisis and help them move towards recovery. Check out our case studies.