Impact Practitioners

The Public engagement evaluation toolkit

By 04/04/2024


The Public Engagement Evaluation Toolkit is a comprehensive guide written to help individuals evaluate their own public engagement, or that of others. It includes a quick start guide; a detailed guide on evaluating design, delivery, immediate outputs, and impacts; and a separate booklet with evaluation tools for each stage of the engagement. The toolkit is useful for both one-off engagement events and longer-term projects.

Interest in public engagement is at an all-time high. By evaluating what works, it allows for more effective engagement practices, as well as reporting back on the benefits of working with the public.

The first part of the toolkit is a ‘quick start guide’. If you find yourself strapped for time, this section will guide you  through the key steps involved in developing a basic evaluation plan. 

Step 1: Choose Your Evaluation Focus. For a quick evaluation, first decide what you want to achieve:

  • Are you keen on immediate feedback to improve your ongoing engagement efforts?
  • Or, is your focus on assessing and sharing the long-term impacts of your engagement?

Step 2: Craft Your Evaluation Plan. An evaluation plan contains a few elements, such as:

  • Defining your engagement’s primary goals and objectives.
  • Clearly outlining the results and impacts you expect to see – think of these as the desired outcomes.
  • Identifying indicators to measure your progress toward those goals.
  • Consider the tools you’ll need for data collection, along with the necessary resources.

Step 3: Collecting, Analysing, and Utilising Data. Armed with the tools from Step 2, it’s time to gather data for evaluation. The findings can be used to enhance your engagement practices or to report the benefits.

The second part is the actual toolkit, which provides a detailed explanation of how to evaluate public engagement. But, if you are in a hurry, the material in the pink boxes will summarise each step for you:

Step 1: Preparation. Make sure you do these three things:

  • Define the purpose of your engagement.
  • Determine if your engagement is a standalone activity or part of a longer-term project.
  • Clarify who your evaluation is for and who will use the results.

Step 2: Evaluate public engagement. There are three ways you can do this:

  • Assess the design of public engagement activities based on their purpose and context.
  • Evaluate the delivery and immediate outcomes of your engagement.
  • Scrutinise the long-term impacts of your engagement.

Step 3: Evaluate the design. Evaluate the planned engagement design against good practice principles – ensure that it’s ethically sound, relevant, and tailored to participants’ needs.

Step 4: Assess the delivery and immediate outputs. While engagement is often measured in terms of participation numbers, remember that quality matters too. Effective engagement leads to positive outputs; the reverse may hinder progress.

Step 5:  Evaluate the impacts of public engagement. If your goal is to report benefits from engagement, consider various impacts that may arise. In most cases, researchers seek instrumental impacts – although others could arise.

Step 6: Collecting and analysing evaluation data. Before collecting data, ensure you’re equipped with the right tools and resources. Set aside time for preparation, and prioritise data safety and privacy.

Step 7: Using the evaluation results. Once data is collected and analysed, you can use the findings in two ways:

  • As formative feedback , which helps improve future engagement.
  • As summative feedback, which informs interested stakeholders, like community groups or funders, about what you found

Part 3, which is a separate booklet, provides information about different evaluation tools for each stage of the engagement.

Overall, this toolkit is useful for individuals who wish to improve the way they evaluate their public engagement.