8 tips for commissioning an evaluation

If you are considering commissioning and conducting an evaluation, all parties should be fully informed about what is expected to be delivered and what can be reasonably expected to be delivered. The Australasian Evaluation Society has prepared a helpful guide, which is applicable to an evaluation in any sector, including arts, cultural, environmental, regional, business or government.

1. Prepare briefing documents

To commission an evaluation you should prepare a consultant’s brief that states the rationale, purpose and scope of the evaluation, the key questions to be addressed, any preferred approaches, issues to be taken into account, and the intended audiences for reports of the findings. As a client you have an obligation to identify all stakeholders in the evaluation and to assess the potential positive and negative effects and implications of the evaluation for them.

2. Identify limitations, different interests

In responding to an evaluation brief, evaluators should explore the shortcomings and strength of the brief. They should identify any likely methodological or ethical limitations of the proposed evaluation, and their possible effect upon the conduct and results of the evaluation. They should make distinctions between the interests of the client/commissioner and other stakeholders in the evaluation, and highlight the possible impacts of the evaluation to other stakeholders.

3. Draft a contractual arrangement

An evaluation should have an agreed contractual arrangement between those commissioning the evaluation and the evaluators. It should specify conditions of engagement, resources available, services to be rendered, any fees to be paid, time frame for completing the evaluation, ownership of privileged communication, storage and disposal of all information collected, and release of evaluation report(s).

4. Advise changing circumstances

Both parties have the right to expect that contractual arrangements will be followed. Each party has the responsibility to advise the other about changing or unforeseen conditions or circumstances and should be prepared to negotiate accordingly.

5. Look for potential risks

The decision to undertake an evaluation should be carefully considered in light of potential risks or harms to the clients, target groups or staff of the program. As far as possible, these should be anticipated and discussed during the initial negotiation of the evaluation.

6. Practise with competence

The evaluator or evaluation team should possess the knowledge, abilities, skills and experience required to undertake the tasks proposed in the evaluation. Evaluators should fairly represent their competence, and should not practise beyond it.

7. Disclose potential conflicts of interest

In responding to a brief, evaluators should disclose any of their roles or relationships that may create potential conflicts of interest in the conduct of the evaluation. Any such conflicts should also be identified int he evaluation documents including the final report.

8. Deal openly and fairly

Those commissioning and evaluation and/or selecting an evaluator should deal with all proposals openly and fairly, including respecting ownership of materials, intellectual property and commercial confidence.
More information about guidelines to conducting an evaluation can be found on the Australasian Evaluation Society (AES) website, here.

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