10 Top Tips for Making Self-Evaluation Work for you!

20 Jun 2023 Leeann Kelly    Last updated: 20 Jun 2023

NICVA have been delighted to partner with CES (Centre for Effective Services) to deliver an interactive and lively session on ‘An Introduction to Self-Evaluation’.

All organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors are required to evaluate what they do and are challenged to demonstrate the difference their interventions make in the lives of others. CES provided useful insight to help us think about how to evaluate our own services in a way that works for us, our service users and funders.

This short article will share some of the key learning from this session, with very useful 10 Top Tips for Making Self-Evaluation Work for you.

What is self-evaluation?

Evaluation is the process of examining the performance of an organization, program, project, policy, or any other intervention to determine its relevance, adequacy, effectiveness, efficiency, and progress for the purpose of identifying areas for improvement”.

Self-evaluation is simply doing this for your own organization rather than contracting an external evaluator. Self-evaluation helps you to generate your own knowledge base and understanding what works for you and your service users and sharing that learning.​

Getting started with self-evaluation.

If you are looking to get started with self-evaluation or want to refresh your approach, there are three simple questions that you should take the time to ask and then answer honestly:

  1. What do we do?
  2. Why do we do it?
  3. How do we know it is working?

These questions are likely to lead to answers and further questions.  As part of asking these questions, CES suggest we go a step further and ask:

  1. What are the changes your service is trying to make?
  2. What are you doing to achieve those changes?
  3. How do we know that changes are made?

These questions kick start your thinking on what are your key outcomes and what activities are delivered to help you achieve these outcomes?  CES reminded participants of simple ways to think about outcomes and outputs.

Outcomes- What is the change do you want to see? These are the intended and unintended changes that occur because of an intervention or policy.  These can be short-term, medium-term, and long-term changes. Examples can include changes in knowledge, confidence, and attitudes.

Outputs- These are the specific products that are produced as a result of our activities or interventions, eg: number of people trained, or the number of calls received.

Organisations can use a range of tools to evaluate what they do and determine the extent to which their outcomes are being achieved. A mixture of quantitative and qualitative data can help tell the story of your work.  These can include:

  • Distanced traveled surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Key worker monitoring forms
  • Service user exit interviews
  • Case studies

Before embarking on data collection, take the time to consider:

  • Capacity to design data collection plan and administer it.
  • Capacity to analyse the data.
  • What will be sustainable over time?
  • What existing data can you use?
  • Match methods to needs, abilities and circumstances of people who you want to provide feedback.
  • Consider creative ways to collect data, such as video storytelling.

Then what do you do with the data you collect?  CES provided guidance on how to interpret your findings and create a culture of using data to regularly learn and grow as an organisation.

  • What are the main themes emerging?
  • What are the major lessons?
  • What interesting stories emerging from the data?
  • What new things did we learn?
  • Did you achieve your outcomes?
  • What worked and what didn’t and why?
  • Any unintended outcomes?

To conclude, here is CES’s Top 10 Tips for Self-Evaluation:

  1. Start at the start or as early as possible.
  2. Keep it simple!
  3. Make it realistic- you won’t change the world, so don’t try to measure ‘world changingness’.
  4. Make it proportionate to the resources you have, consider the effort required, the funding invested, the time needed.
  5. Make it proportionate to the scale of your project and its expected outcomes.
  6. Benchmark (measure before and after)- you do not need it, but it is helpful.
  7. Know your audience, speak their language: money? Stories?
  8. Give context when telling your story- what does your statistics mean in context?
  9. Be open, be brave- it might not be working, and evaluation can help you understand why!
  10. Evaluation is a tool that should serve you.

This session was delivered as part of NICVA’s regular impact workshops, offering participants the opportunity to develop their understanding of impact and gain practical tools they can apply to their own work. 

Some of the great feedback we've received recently:

“Practical advice on how to think about service outcomes and the activities needed to achieve them.  Great quality sessions.”

“Brilliant training - very informative - gave lots to think about but also practical things to take away.”

Click here to see our upcoming sessions

NICVA also offers practical support and guidance to organisations on impact, if you would like to discuss this further, contact Leeann Kelly, Impact Practice Manager at: [email protected]

CES is a charity dedicated to improving the lives of people on the island of Ireland by supporting the implementation of excellent public services through evidence-informed policy and practice. If you would like to find out more about the work of CES check out their website: Helping to Implement Better Public Services - CES (effectiveservices.org).

Think CES could help your organisation? You can now book a free 15 minute consultation using their booking page: Book a 15 minute consultation


leeann.kelly@nicva.org's picture
by Leeann Kelly

Impact Practice Manager

[email protected]

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