"Designing evaluation and communication strategies together creates a learning space that enables projects to be clear on their goals and strategies."
DECI-2: Developing Evaluation and Communication Capacity in Information Society Research is a project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and UKAid. The DECI-2 team is based in several countries and continents, and its members continue to adapt the approach that is being shared through a website and e-guide.
DECI-2 has developed and tested a capacity development approach that provides research partners with support in utilisation-focused evaluation (UFE) and research communication. Their partners have been IDRC-supported research networks and grantees working on applied projects in fields such as Open Education, Open and Collaborative Science, etc. The capacity-building approach has provided outputs in the form of evaluation reports that are "owned" by the users, as well as communication strategies that are targeted and that use media of confirmed use by each stakeholder.
The website profiles a searchable knowledge base with over 80 documents.
- Evaluation practitioners will find examples of UFE and developmental evaluation initiatives and may come to understanding the benefits of introducing communication planning early on into an evaluation process.
- Communication practitioners will find examples of research communication (ResCom) used as a tool to help research projects design their communication strategies early on. They may discover the added value of introducing evaluation questions into communication planning.
- Mentors and facilitators of learning can explore the value of just-in-time mentoring, whereby projects receive support at their own pace, when they are ready, and may realise the importance of a readiness assessment early on, to confirm that conditions are present within which demand-driven mentoring will be effective.
- Project managers and commissioners of evaluation can learn about the simplified hybrid approach, where evaluation and communication planning enhance each other. They will read about the value of having project teams gain a sense of ownership over their evaluation and communication strategies.
One resource offered there is an e-guide, Evaluation and Communication Decision-Making: A Practitioner's Guide by Ricardo Ramírez and Dal Brodhead, 2017. Its contents include:
- Origins & background
- Evaluation & communication
- Guiding principles
- The Practice
- Six dimensions of practice
- The steps we follow
- Entry points
- The Outcomes
- Outcome - Making evaluation and communication plans explicit
- Outcome - Strategic adjustment
- Outcome - Changes in capabilities
- Take away lessons
- Readiness and situational analysis
- Just in time mentoring
- Practical wisdom
- Desired traits of evaluation and communication mentors
- References & recommended readings
One example provided in the e-guide is meant to illustrate the value of the DECI-2 process, including that it has helped partners adjust their strategies as they witnessed emerging findings and changing contexts. This hybrid approach is about being purposeful and taking time to modify strategy, clarify outcomes, and strengthen relations with stakeholders. The process is a means of inviting and enabling participatory-action-learning. In one of the projects DECI-2 support in Assam (India), it was clear that tea garden workers in Assam have insufficient access to health facilities and essential services. Existing facilities are severely underequipped and understaffed, and suffer high rates of maternal and infant mortality with minimal access to legal and advocacy resources. Nazdeek - a human rights organisation - and the Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (New York) developed a mobile app for reporting and mapping health right violations through short message service (SMS). In partnership with a local organisation called Pajhra, Nazdeek ran a pilot project in which 40 volunteer women were given mobile devices to report health right violations related to maternal and infant mortality. DECI-2 provided UFE and ResCom mentoring to Nazdeek and Pajhra. Discussions on what needed to be evaluated and communicated led the project managers to realise that if they were to significant impact, they had to build partnerships and strengthen advocacy with the government. Furthermore, the evaluation findings revealed that the participating women were not reporting most of the violations because they did not perceive them as human right violations, but as something normal in their lives. As explained in the case study, the project's strategy shifted from training women on the use of the mobile app to offering human-rights-based empowerment sessions and strengthening the identity of the community. Nazdeek and Pajhra project managers also started building relationships with key government authorities. Figure 4 on page 20 of the e-guide summarises this adaptive, strategic journey.