Stakeholders include anybody who has an interest in the monitoring and evaluation of your project. This might range from those who fund a project or govern it, to those who deliver, participate, or are secondary or ultimate beneficiaries of the project (for example family members might benefit from an individual’s participation in a bystander training project). Understanding who these different groups are is important to shaping and delivering your evaluation.
Michael Quinn Patton coined the term ‘utilisation-focused evaluation’ to describe the principle that an evaluation should have practical value for its intended users(xxviii). Understanding the purpose and motivation of intended users from the beginning increases the chance that they will use the evaluation once it is delivered. Different people will be interested in different aspects of your findings. Funders and governance bodies may be looking to ensure that funding has been effectively expended. Project managers working on the ground may be looking at process or content learnings to improve the quality of the project.
Take a look at Better Evaluation’s summary of Utilization Focused Evaluation.
It is also important to understand and work collaboratively with the communities you hope will benefit from your project. The principle of participant agency is especially relevant in the field of primary prevention work – that is, respecting and including the voices of diverse communities with whom you work, and recognising that people are experts in their own experiences – especially and including any victim-survivors.
- UN Women’s Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls provides great tips for engaging victim survivors in the evaluation process.
- For a recent example of some research centring the voices of victim-survivor advocates see the National Plan Victim-Survivor Advocates Consultation Final Report by Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.
It may be the case that some communities with whom you work know little about or will be resistant to the messages of primary prevention. Recognising their circumstances, attitudes, and context can help shape methods of engagement for your evaluation.
For all of these reasons it is important to create a stakeholder map that plots out:
- who your stakeholders are
- what their interest in the evaluation is
- any sensitivities you might be aware of
- what expectations they might have of evaluation products (e.g., summarising outcomes for participants).
Evaluations often serve multiple purposes and have more than one end user. If this is the case, you might provide different products for different stakeholders. You might deliver a highly detailed report for funders or a board. Alternatively, participants might benefit from a two-page visual snapshot of data and findings.
You can find a stakeholder mapping template on the Resources and templates page.
- VicHealth’s resource Evaluating Victorian Projects for the Primary Prevention of Violence against Women: A concise guide provides valuable advice and resources on identifying stakeholders for your MEL work. This resource also includes a worksheet for undertaking stakeholder mapping.
- Our Watch’s resource Putting the Prevention of Violence against Women into Practice: How to change the story also includes advice and resources to help with stakeholder mapping, and includes a stakeholder mapping matrix.
Tip - Participatory research and evaluation
At the beginning of your evaluation, work out the ways it might be relevant for stakeholders to take a more active role. For example, a co-design approach at the design stage might shine light on evaluation questions and approaches that increase the quality of the evaluation and reduce risks. Involving participants in data collection processes can build evaluation capacity and increase the quality of responses.
- Better Evaluation provides helpful advice around understanding and engaging stakeholders in your evaluation. It also provides comprehensive guidance around the fundamentals of participatory evaluation, including when and how to apply it.
- See also Irene Guijt’s (2014) Unicef Methodological Brief: Participatory approaches [PDF].
- The Bruner Foundation (2010) Participatory Evaluation Essentials: An updated guide for non-profit organizations and their partners [PDF].
(xxviii) Patton, M.Q. (2008). Utilization-focused evaluation. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.