7. Disseminate report and support use of the evaluation

Findings from a program evaluation may be received by different audiences and used for different purposes. The results of an evaluation should be communicated to relevant audiences and used to inform future practices.

Consider how results will be used

For your evaluation, here are 4 ways to consider how you could plan to support or implement evaluation results.

  1. Instrumental use — direct implementation of findings and recommendations for decisions about funding, program adjustments or changes in policy and procedure.
  2. Conceptual use — results and conclusions spread incrementally through the organisation in the form of new ideas and concepts debated and developed over time.
  3. Process (learning) use — participation in the evaluation leads to individual learning and changes in behaviour.
  4. Legitimising use — evaluation results legitimise a decision or understanding that the organisation or individual already holds.

Plan how to disseminate the results

The usual method for communicating evaluation findings is to publish them on your agency's website.  The practice principle, Evaluation processes should be transparent and open to scrutiny in the NSW Government Evaluation Guidelines (PDF, 543 KB) requires an evaluation report on any program delivering services to the public to be publicly released in a timely manner. The exception is where there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. In the planning stages you would have determined which evaluation findings, methods and data will be shared within and external to government. This should be reviewed now in the light of the actual evaluation report.

The final report, either in full or summary form, needs to reach the intended audiences in a way that is meaningful to them. For policy-makers and key stakeholders, this is usually through the final evaluation report.

The needs and interests of other stakeholders will vary. For example, it is considered desirable in evaluations involving community consultation or issues, and especially in Aboriginal communities, to provide feedback about the evaluation. Some agencies will have their own approaches and standards to suit their fields. Broader guides for the conduct of research with Aboriginal communities are also available.

Act on recommendations

The commissioning agency should develop responses to any recommendations made in the evaluation report. These responses should address the recommendations, but can go beyond them. The evaluation commissioner should:

  • establish a process to review the implications of evaluation findings and recommendations
  • develop an action plan to implement the responses, such as preparation of a policy brief, revise program settings, or developed practice guidelines
  • communicate the response to the evaluation audience.

A program evaluation may result in a variety of products, for example: policy briefs; briefing presentations; data archives.

Support learning from the evaluation

The program evaluation may contain useful information for informing practice within the agency or more widely.  The use of this information can be supported by preparing specific communications such as guides or training outlines that targets practitioners and focuses on practice issues.

The evaluation report is an important record of the program at a particular time, and should be retained as part of the body of corporate or sector knowledge.  This may include publication of the report, holding it within agency archives, and presentation at forums such as conferences.

The evaluation also offers an opportunity for learning more about evaluation itself. The evaluation process and results should be reviewed, a process called meta-evaluation.

The evaluation function within the agency can use evaluation reports and the experience or knowledge acquired from the evaluation to promote evaluation within the agency/ sector.