Planning for evaluation

The plan should be written in consultation with your partners as required. If you decide you need the assistance of a contracted evaluator, your first opt-out point is after Step 2 in the following section. By this point you will have defined your evaluation questions and will be able to provide clear guidance to your contractor.

Step 1. What are my objectives?

In most cases the overall purpose of evaluation is to test whether the community building initiative has met its objectives (for example, increased resident participation). These objectives can be informed by your needs prioritisation process or by each community building initiative that you are evaluating.

Step 2. What questions do I ask?

Next, consider all the answers you’ll need to determine if each of your objectives has been met. Consider questions related to outcomes, achievements and improved processes. Be specific.

Step 3. Identify the data and sources

Consider the information you’ll need in order to answer each of your questions. At this point you could get some assistance from a researcher or evaluator to help determine how to best collect data.

When selecting the best method, you need to consider whether you or any of your stakeholders already collect this data or do you need to create a new data source? Who is best able to provide the information you require? What are the costs associated with the method you select?

You should also use a mix of data sources, considering methods such as:

  • indicators used in your needs assessment
  • achievement audits (what has been delivered, for example; 3000 participants)
  • key stakeholder interviews/individual interviews
  • focus groups/group interviews
  • ABS Census
  • literature reviews
  • data sources/indicators
  • surveys.

It's very useful to establish an ongoing way of recording community building achievements – an achievement audit. This can be incorporated into the information you obtain through ongoing stakeholder and community engagement processes. You will be amazed at the information you can generate that may otherwise have been forgotten over time or lost with staff changes.

Your evaluation plan is now complete.

The table below provides an example of how you would complete the evaluation plan for one of the objectives for a Men's Shed.

Evaluation step Decision
Objective Decreasing social isolation amongst men in the community
Evaluation questions Did participants build friendships?
Was participant's knowledge increased about how to access support services?
Did participants learn new skills?
Did participants feel like they had an increased sense of purpose?
Did participants feel happier?
Data required The level of social isolation before participating in the program
Participant assessment of the program and its impact on them
The coordinators assessment of outcomes
Data sources Participant journals and story-telling
Surveys over time

Step 4. Determine timelines and budget

Once your evaluation plan is complete you will need to determine when each evaluation activity occurs, with the costs and staff involved.

Best practice guides