When considering how to undertake social enterprise evaluation, it’s tempting to try and seek answers about what kind of evaluation approach is best. We want to know if we’re doing things right, and collecting the data we need in a way that will provide us with some clear and valid results. In our quest to find the best evaluation approach, we will likely arrive at the following (sometimes frustrating) answer: it depends.
Different evaluation approaches fit different evaluation needs, so although there is no single “best” approach, understanding your evaluation needs will help you find the best fit.
For example, quantitative evaluation approaches that collect numerical data might provide a broad sense of outcomes (e.g. 60% of people gained employment after our training). In contrast, qualitative approaches such as interviews can help to tell a deeper story (what factors supported people to gain employment, and what difference has it made in their lives?).
There are many more questions to consider, such as whether you are most interested in outcomes (what’s changed through the activities of your social enterprise); processes (how did your enterprise contribute to these changes), or both!
It’s also worth thinking about what you would like to be able to do with the evaluation findings – is it most useful to have a small number of key figures you can share to give people a sense of your impact, or are you seeking very detailed information that your enterprise can use both to refine its processes and share its success with others? These kinds of factors can help guide the evaluation scale and focus.
Although this process involves more questions than answers, hopefully you are somewhat relieved that you don’t have to keep seeking the elusive “best” evaluation approach! You can simply focus on what kind of evaluation best fits your needs.
Image Credit: Square Peg Round Hole by R Diepenheim from the Noun Project