Mesh theme looking at different methods and approaches for measuring the impact of engagement

Addressing Complexity: The Challenge of Evaluating Engagement

Public and community engagement initiatives take place in settings with multiple stakeholders, contextual factors that may have an unforeseen influence, and dynamic circumstances that may lead to unexpected change.

In evaluation jargon, capturing the ‘contribution’ made by your project in such a complex and fluid context, may be more realistic and more scientifically valid than looking for ‘attribution’ i.e. aiming to definitively prove that your project led to the changes observed. Useful monitoring and evaluation depends on being clear about the changes that your public engagement initiative is aiming for, so these changes can be assessed. This in turn, depends on understandings and assumptions about how change happens - the ‘theory of change’ for the engagement work - and how your initiative contributes to these changes.

Making clear this theory of change for your engagement activities means they can be tested against evidence of what actually happened, with the potential to learn and further improve future work. Some evaluation frameworks are more suited than others to addressing complexity and it is these frameworks, and their related evaluation approaches and tools, that we focus on in this theme area.


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