Evaluations often make recommendations about how a program can be improved, how the risk of program failure can be reduced or whether a program should continue. However, not all evaluations include recommendations. It is important to clarify whether recommendations are expected when developing the evaluation brief, terms of reference or scope of work.
Why is important to dedicate some time to write the final recommendation after an evaluation? Because this process will allow the facilitator and eventually the different stakeholders involved in the process to benefit from a final and comprehensive lesson learned review. Most of the elements present in the recommendations are the same that we are finding in the different chapters of the evaluation, but it is very important to transfer them into a consolidated text to be used for further reflections and developments and upscaling the concept.
In this sense, it is very important to limit the number of recommendations. Be prudent and concise in the number of proposed recommendations. Avoid combining different recommendations into a single one, as this jeopardizes the follow-up of their implementation. The aim of a good recommendation is focusing on the future steps and for this reason, it should be clear for each recommendation which possible steps have been linked.
The message should be clear: make certain that the recommendations are sufficiently clear to a wider public. In some cases, recommendations may appear to be clear to evaluators due to the evaluators’ knowledge. Ask for a peer review of the recommendations outside your circle of facilitators to ensure that they are sufficiently clear concerning their content and that the language used is plain and actionable.
It is important always to refer to the evidence for each recommendation. Indicate the evaluation results, findings, and/or conclusions that provide evidence to support the recommendations. For this reason, it is fundamental that your recommendations are linked to the evaluation methodology and items used for collecting findings. This needs good advanced planning.
As the last point of attention: make recommendations that are implementable with existing human and financial resources or through resources that can be mobilized. Don’t mix up vision with recommendations
How to apply it in everyday work]
In The Checklist for Evaluation Recommendations by Osvaldo Feinstein, there are mentioned importance steps in the phase of Formulating Recommendations
1. Timing: During the initial phase of the evaluation, raise questions and make observations that may be inputs for recommendations.
.2. Engagement: Engage with decision makers and staff involved in the design and/or implementation of the intervention to develop buy-in for or appropriation of the recommendations.
.3. Consultation: Consult thematic experts directly or through a literature review. Expanding your knowledge about the subject matter of the evaluation will enrich the process of formulating recommendations. Consult with thematic experts either directly or through a literature review, paying particular attention to the context for which the nuggets of knowledge apply.
4. Validation: Validate recommendations early on. As you identify problems or shortcomings with the intervention through direct observation or preliminary results, try to find possible solutions or elements of solutions and discuss them with program staff and, if possible, thematic experts, thus embarking on a process of progressive validation of the recommendations. In these conversations, emphasize that these are provisional ideas.
In your next long term training or coordinating experience, can you define an evaluation plan focusing on developing clear recommendations for the future? If it is yes the answer, draw a work plan based on this 4 point to define how you are going to formulate and design your recommendations plan and how the information will fit in the final document following the above text.
- Do I plan to provide a recommendation after training activities?
- When do I feel that it is necessary to spend time and energy for drawing recommendations?
- Should recommendations open to all or only to the implementers of the projects?