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Evaluation Principles: Beneficial

Find out more about how to make your evaluation activity beneficial for you and your stakeholders.

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Committed to learning




The aims of our evaluations are often influenced by the priorities of our funders, rather than addressing the needs of organisations and – importantly – the needs of our audiences, visitors and the wider public.

For our evaluation activity to be beneficial, it needs to centre the experiences, wants, values and viewpoints of the people who are at the heart of the activity.

We can do this by privileging meaningful learning and reflection, developing ethical processes and aiming for positive and actionable change over empty justification and advocacy.

Principles into practice: questions to consider

We have designed the following questions to help you think through how the Beneficial Principle can apply to your specific context of practice.

Some questions may be more relevant to you than others. Consider which might help you spark productive discussions with colleagues, partners or stakeholders.

Is your evaluation activity … committed to learning?

  • What do you want to learn through your evaluations that you don’t already know?
  • In what ways do you incorporate previous learning, existing data and research into your evaluations?
  • Do you start your evaluations early enough to capture baseline data so you can make meaningful comparisons?
  • Do your evaluations allow you to challenge the projects’ and activities’ purpose?
  • Do you use qualitative approaches (alongside collecting quantitative data) to help you explore why and how things happen, as much as what?
  • Can you use iterative approaches, sharing and discussing provisional results and outcomes with teams as you go?
  • Can you negotiate with stakeholders (e.g. funders) for a longer-term follow-up to capture impacts and engagement after the project has ended?

Is your evaluation activity … ethical?

  • What does ethical evaluation look and feel like to you? What does it mean to you to deliver evaluation activity with integrity?
  • Does your evaluation activity take advantage of or exploit those that are taking part? Is it appropriate and possible to pay participants for their time and input?
  • Does your evaluation activity allow participants to define the change and learning they want to see?
  • Can you first test your evaluation methods and design to understand participants’ experiences of the evaluation activity?
  • Where possible, do you share your evaluation findings with those who have taken part? Is this clearly communicated from the start?

Is your evaluation activity … applicable?

  • What difference does your evaluation activity have the potential to make? If it won’t make a difference, is it worth undertaking?
  • How might your evaluation activity be useful for and shared with all your stakeholders? How can this include participants and also those working in other sectors?
  • Is the format, length, content and frequency of your communications around your evaluation activity and findings tailored to different audiences?
  • Are recommendations developed with those who need to action them, to ensure they are feasible and informed by existing and future plans and processes?

Related resources

Sharing Learning: Birds of Paradise Theatre Company

Mairi Taylor, Executive Producer of Birds of Paradise Theatre company, reflects on developing company-wide mechanisms to prevent assumptions in their work.

How to … fail well

This guide explores what do we by failure, and how can we change our perspective away from things ‘going wrong’ to think about what to do next.

Evaluation Principles in Practice workshop

This recorded workshop explores the questions: when are the tried and tested research methods not right, or not enough? What creative methods are available?

Webinar: Who and what is evaluation for? And when is it useful?

This webinar discusses and questions evaluation in the cultural sector and explores how we might be able to do and share it better, so collectively we can articulate the difference culture makes to people and to society.

Sharing learning: rb&hArts – Musicians in Healthcare Mentoring Programme

rb&hArts explain more about their Musicians in Healthcare Mentoring Programme and share the learnings taken from running the programme in 2018-19 and in 2020.

Read more about the Evaluation Principles

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Find out more about including a diversity of viewpoints and experiences ...
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Find out more about adopting rigourous and appropriate evaluation approaches and methods ...
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Find out more about enabling and sharing learning through evaluation activity ...

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