- Make sure to occasionally revise your theory of change (or the other model you chose to work with) to adapt to unexpected results. Even though it is important to have a clear direction for what you hope to achieve, practice might bring you to realize that you need to further adapt those goals. Be critical, reflective and flexible to improve your model. This is called “double-loop learning”, in which organizations “critically examine our assumptions and our theories in light of the results”, going beyond changes to programs and activities.
- Take time to reflect after each public engagement activity. You can reflect on: What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? Include your lessons learned in an internal report, so future employees can learn from your experience instead of making the same mistakes or starting all over again. After each of your public engagement activities, take some time to reflect on what worked, what unexpected results can be incorporated in future, and what should be improved. Reporting is about learning to improve, not only about reporting to donors.
- Don’t modify your theory of change on a frequent basis. Your theory of change can be dynamic, but it is still a foundational document that shouldn’t be changed without careful consideration. Changing it will have impacts down the line – on your methodologies and therefore your data, which can make it harder for statistical analysis and data comparison.
- Don’t believe there is “no time” for reflection or that you can “do it later.” If you do not take the time to reflect after each activity, your team will end up losing more time by making the same mistakes with new activities, and the quality of your public engagement evaluation data will suffer from it.
“Through our public engagement campaign to raise awareness among Canadian teachers, students, and union members about global issues, we had some unexpected and unintended positive results, which we discovered through our regular monitoring activities. One of our Canadian partners spontaneously initiated the formation of a permanent international solidarity fund, funded directly from its own members. This is something that occurred as a direct result of our engagement on international development issues, but was not one of our anticipated outcomes or part of our theory of change. We learned from this and adapted our approach, and are now including the formation of an international fund as a possible “step” in the engagement ladder which we encourage.”
– Program Director for a small NGO
“At our planning stage, we elaborated two logic models: One for the desired poverty reduction changes in the field, and one for the desired behaviour changes (public engagement) to support poverty reduction from Canada. Even though complementary, the two logic models have been used and implemented separately with separate approaches. The regular monitoring of our results helped us realize that the Canadian and overseas logic models would benefit from being more integrated to better show how public engagement concretely supports international development initiatives beyond Canadians’ current targeted attitude or behaviour changes. This is the next step for us.”
-Public engagement specialist for a large NGO