Planning your evaluation

How you can understand the difference you make

Evaluation involves gathering, making sense of and using evidence about the impact of a project or service, which helps us understand its value or worth. Evaluation is not the same as monitoring – collecting and recording information in a routine and systematic way to check progress against plans – though monitoring is critical for the evaluation process. 

Evaluation involves making judgments about how an organisation, project or service is doing. Evaluation can take one of the two following forms:

  • Formative (on-going, over the course of the project)
  • Summative (static, takes place at the end of a project)

Formative evaluation allows you to respond to feedback and learning as you go, whereas summative evaluation is a retrospective look at a project. Both have their places, but the most important thing is what you do with the learning. Evaluation is a wasted exercise if the learning is not used to reflect on and improve what you do. 

It is really important to plan for evaluation from the beginning of the project. More robust approaches to evaluation will gather the perspective of participants before and after they take part - also known as pre- and post-test measures. 

Evaluation can be an internal or external process - or both. The most important thing is to consider the question you want to ask, and the most appropriate methods for seeking the answer. Sometimes this question might be primarily of interest to you or your organisation; sometimes it might primarily be of interest to others: funders, commissioners, the local community, young people themselves. 

Above all, evaluation should be useful, proportionate, and match methods to the question. 

  • How could we improve the project?
  • What difference did the project make to the young people who took part?
  • Why did the project make that difference?
  • Can we prove that it was our project that made the difference?
  • Does our project create cost savings?
Further Reading

Check out our Help Guide on the right side of this page for tailored information on evaluating the impact of your projects or services, matched to your particular interests.

We also have resources for:

  • Monitoring Outcomes
  • Attributing Change
  • Replicating And Scaling

If you want to learn more about evaluating impact, here is a selection of interesting reading:

  • The Impact Hub, a fully searchable database from Inspiring Impact to help you find what’s out there to help you improve your impact practice.
  • Measuring Up!, a step-by-step self assessment tool produced by CES that you can use to understand and enahnce your organisation's impact factor. Best used alongisde The Impact Hub.