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Find out if a service or intervention is effective

There are two main approaches to establishing whether services and interventions are delivering what we need them to – performance monitoring and evaluation. It’s important not to get these two things confused. Performance monitoring tells us what a service or intervention did and how well it did it. Evaluation tells us the effect of that service or intervention on the people, families, or communities it is serving, i.e., whether it is producing results or having an impact. Performance monitoring, therefore, tends to be more focussed on outputs, while evaluation tends to be more focussed on outcomes.

Good quality evaluation is a really important part of taking an evidence-based approach to decision-making and commissioning, but often gets neglected. There are some standard principles and methods for conducting good evaluations which need to be applied, to ensure that the findings are reliable and that the potential for bias is minimised. A poor quality evaluation can be worse than no evaluation at all – giving false assurances, reaching unfounded conclusions or failing to identify opportunities for improvement, for example.

Building robust evaluation into your design from the outset is crucial, so that you can gather good evidence of what is and isn’t working and know whether the intervention is delivering on its objectives. Setting those objectives is really the first step in the evaluation process – without clear objectives in place that lend themselves to evaluation, it can be very hard to reach meaningful conclusions about effectiveness subsequently.

When trying out a new type of service or intervention, or applying it to a different type of cohort for the first time, it’s usually best to run a pilot in the first instance, designed with robust evaluation in mind, so that you can test out whether it will be effective and pick up on any issues that need ironing out before rolling out on a large scale or committing funding long-term.

Take a look at our information on evaluation to see what tools and support we have to offer.

You can also find reports on evaluations of local services and interventions which have been undertaken by our team in our library of resources. 

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