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Understand the issue you need to focus on

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Use this page to understand the first steps you need to take before carrying out an evaluation.

Getting started in your evaluation

The first step in evaluation is understanding:

  • the issue(s) you’d like to address and how they might affect individuals, communities or organisations
  • the decision-makers you want to influence or environments you want to change.

Complete a needs assessment

You could carry out a ‘needs assessment’ (for example, research into the needs of a community), reviewing the challenges being faced to find out the best ways to address them.

You may also consider what individual or community assets (resources and skills available in the community) are available, and where there are opportunities to involve the people you work with in developing solutions.

Read more about completing a needs assessment.

Look at the existing data

By looking at others’ research, local or national statistics (that have already examined the issue you’re interested in), talking to existing or potential groups or other stakeholders, and drawing on your own expertise, you can find out:

  • who and where your intended groups, or people you want to influence, are
  • what they want, what challenges they’re facing and what assets they might have to address these
  • what available resources, services or community assets may provide solutions to challenges
  • which organisations are working in the same field and whether partnerships are possible
  • whether there are any gaps in existing services or activity.

Points to think about

The issues that you identify don’t need to be ones that your organisation can solve quickly or single-handedly.

They may be long-term problems where your organisation’s work will be part of a solution, rather than ones that you can solve on your own.

Try to consider the causes of any problems you identify, as these may suggest ways in which your work can contribute to a solution.

Be mindful of power dynamics. You need to carefully consider:

  • who participates (or not) in the evaluation and its design
  • how and where findings are shared
  • the implications of how the work is being funded.

Read more about NCVO’s values and principles for ideas on how to mitigate imbalances.

Last reviewed: 18 September 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 September 2023

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