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Recently I completed a mid-term evaluation for a small client that wasn’t used to doing evaluations. The evaluation process had gone smoothly, but it was clear from the data collection that some of the stakeholders involved didn’t really understand the point of doing an evaluation. So, having completed the draft report and having made the recommendations as practical as possible for the second half of the project, I decided to conduct the validation session in a far more participatory process than usual.

Having outlined the project progress, I set out the result categories and asked the participants to think about the project and what they thought the results were. Using prioritisation games and exercises I worked through the results and later the lessons learned and recommendations. We agreed further lessons learned and that I’ve included in the report and clarifications on some of the recommendations.

The participatory approach worked really well. Participants spent most of the morning moving around the room as they discussed and thought about the different results and listening to each others’ views about the options they had chosen. It helped to unpack some complicated ideas and challenge the organisations’ leaders on their own assumptions. It really helped that they were all quite happy to be challenged in this way.

One of the things that did emerge was that the client had expected the evaluation to highlight only the positive aspects of the evaluation and not any of the challenges or learning needed to improve the project. That’s a broader topic for another time, but an interesting insight to their expectations that were not included in the terms of reference.

By the end of the workshop everyone agreed that it felt like there was a truly practical action plan emerging from the evaluation that could be used to make the project more effective and help to achieve the results. We will see if they get it right – I’m due back in 2020 to do the final evaluation!

What are your experiences when providing feedback to a client? How well did it go?


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