The importance of evaluation

Stephen Hale at the FCO has an excellent, interesting and important post about measuring the success of the London G20 Summit site.

With wonderful openness and transparency, Stephen has set out some of the factors by which the site’s success could be measured, along with the results. Its fascinating reading, and provides lots of lessons for anyone approaching an engagement project like this.

Indeed, this ties in with Steph’s recent (and overly-modest) post about the achievements of the engagement bods at DIUS over the last year or so. He wrote:

We still haven’t nailed some of the basics like evaluation, [or] the business case

Figuring out whether or not something has actually worked is terrifically important, and the long term efficacy of online engagement relies on this nut being cracked.

Stephen’s post highlighted some really good practice here: outline what your project aims to do, and come up with some measures around it so you can work out whether it worked or not.

As Steph mentions, having an up-front business case is really important – a written down formulation of what the project actually is and what it ought to achieve.

Now, business cases and evaluation criteria can be developed in isolation and in a project-by-project basis. I wonder, though, how much more value could be created by developing a ‘package’ of evaluation which could be used as a foundation by everyone involved in government online engagement?

Of course, each project has its own unique things that will need to be measured and tested, but surely there are some basic things that every evaluation exercise would need to look at?

How about some common evaluation documents were created, and that every project undertaken ensured that the basic, common stuff was recorded, as well as the unique bits. That way, some kind of comparative analysis would be possible, especially if everyone submitted their results into a common database.

Just how hard would it be to come up with a common framework for online engagement projects? I think it is worth a shot.