Every project is different and offers an opportunity to learn something new. Evaluation is a way for you to look in detail at what worked well or what could have been done differently and make that learning available to others.
The evaluation of a project can help to improve working methods, share knowledge with colleagues, demonstrate the value and the benefits that artists can bring to a project and communicate to funders and the public that the process has been carefully considered and the money has been well spent. This may well be a condition of your funding.
Evaluation grows from the aims and objectives of your project and collecting evidence showing how the project addressed those aims as it progressed. You can undertake the evaluation yourself or engage someone else to do it for you. However you decide to approach it you should account for the time in the project schedule and the cost in the budget.
Documentation of the project is an important element of evaluation in terms of the actual creation of the work, any participatory or education work and the process of managing and delivering the project as a whole.
The documentary evidence you gather to support the evaluation could include photographs, drawings, video and audio recordings of interviews with participants, journals or diaries from the artist or other participants, press cuttings, contracts and minutes of meetings.
Some key things to think about in planning your evaluation.
- What are the aims and objectives of the project?
- How will you measure success?
- Who will take responsibility for undertaking the evaluation?
- Who do you want to contribute to the evaluation?
- Who will be the intended audience for the evaluation?
- How much time will you allocate to it and how much will it cost?
- What sort of evidence will you collect?
- What have you learned?
- How will you present the evaluation?
You will inevitably undertake some ongoing evaluation as part of the management process as you review progress and steer the project. It may also be appropriate to timetable in review meetings with other participants to gain feedback for the evaluation.
Although much of the work in putting together the evaluation will inevitably take place through reflection once the project is complete, the effectiveness of the evaluation in enabling you and others to learn from it and in demonstrating the value of the project will rely on the quality of the evidence you have collected.
This is why it is important to consider both the documentation evaluation process at the start of your project and throughout.
Arts Council England have published a guide to evaluating arts education projects which offers an approach that can be adapted to evaluating commissions. Partnerships for learning: a guide to evaluating arts education projects by Felicity Woolf (Arts Council England, 2004).