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Here's 10 tips for evaluating public engagement.

These are ten top tips on evaluating public engagement with research. If you'd like any advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is also a guide with examples of how to evaluate a range of different activities.

  1. Use evaluation to help you plan your activities. What is it you want to see change as a result of your activity (outcomes)? Use this process to identify and articulate what your objectives are. What will you do to achieve these (what are your outputs)?
  2. Think about what methods you'll use to collect the data you need, and make sure these are appropriate for the activity you're doing. E.g., it might not be appropriate to interview all people taking part in a drop-in activity, but perhaps you can provide stickers to participants to stick up on a 'mood wall' and do some observation work.
  3. When will you collect data? Evaluation can be used throughout the process of development to ensure a relevant, appropriate and high quality activity, so consider piloting your activity (having a run-through before the main event to make tweaks). Additionally, will you need to collect data before and after an activity to be able to see a change, for example?
  4. Use a mix of quantitative (numbers, and the what) and qualitative (the why) approaches, and triangulate the data to build up a rich picture.
  5. With the two points above, carefully consider the volume of data you will then need to analyse - do you have the time and resource and is it proportionate to the scale of the project? Can you request resource (e.g., through Pathways to Impact) to cover the costs of a specialist to do this? 
  6. Make sure you get feedback from as many people as possible. If the number of people giving feedback is too small, the results won't be very helpful. You may also find that only people who feel strongly (positively as well as negatively) respond.
  7. Keep questionnaires short and focus on what is really important. If a question won't give you data regarding an objective, ditch it. Apply this 'is it pertinent?' test to all instruments.
  8. If you are using written materials, be mindful of avoiding leading questions, and make sure the question is clearly worded and not ambiguous. Try testing it out on colleagues before you use it.
  9. Can you make the evaluation part of the engagement activity? For example, collecting views or asking younger participants to draw pictures can be incorporated into some activities and events.
  10. Remember to apply what you have learned the next time you run the activity!

For much more information, Research Councils UK have provided a practical guide that covers the why, what, how and when of evaluation for public engagement and the NCCPE have collated a range of useful resources (search by 'evaluation').