How to get started
Before setting out and undertaking impact related activities it is important to consider the aims of the project (i.e. what you want to achieve). As you will be unable to tell whether your project was a success unless you have decided what it was supposed to accomplish. Also good to be aware of the difference between outcomes, outputs and activities: outcomes are the changes you hope to bring about as a result of what you’re doing; activities are the things you do in order to make these changes happen and outputs are the things you can measure when it comes to the results of your activities. A typical outcome would be “to increase awareness in Rotterdam of EUR’s work in sustainability”. This would lead to activities with outputs such as “to host a series of public events that effectively increase the awareness of those attending”. Outputs and outcomes should be as specific and detailed as possible, as they will form the basis for any evaluation undertaken. The next things to consider are: what evidence you need to collect to know you have met your outputs (i.e. indicators), the focus of the evaluation (i.e. what and who with) and when the evaluation will take place (i.e. pre and post project, during the life of the project).
To help establish an impact proposition, you can think of possible activities on a canvas such as this:
1. Impact proposition
2. Target groups
3. Key partners
4. Key activities
What can your research add for others?
Who can benefit fom your impact proposition?
Who do you need to reach your target group?
What will you and your key partners do to realise your value proposition?
6. Quantified reach
7. Key resources
8. Target group relations
What channels will you use to reach your partners and target group? (e.g. media, personal contacts, etc)
How can you quantify your reach with your target group?
What people or external resources are you dependent on to realise your impact proposition?
How will you keep in touch with your target group?
9. Cost stucture
What costs are associated with your impact proposition?
Is there potential for financial revenue?
The answers to these questions will shape what method(s) you decide are appropriate for the evaluation of your project. The more you think about the answers to these questions the more you will be drawn towards particular methods of evaluation. Furthermore, the clearer you are in your outcomes and outputs, the more you will be able to use monitoring and evaluation to judge your success.
The table below summarises some of the most common evaluation techniques, so you can think through and choose the most appropriate techniques to evaluate your project. You shouldn’t restrict yourself to this list – if your thinking about your aims has given you ideas for new and better ways to measure success, don’t be afraid to use them!
Whatever evaluation methods you decide to use, it is good practice to tell people what information you are collecting, why you are collecting it, and what you will do with it (i.e. the purpose and uses). The approach to evaluation should be transparent and it is important to make it clear to all parties involved how much (or how little) the information you gather will inform future work.