Coutts J&R

Good decision-making is not possible without effective evaluation

Welcome to Coutts J&R — one of Australia’s leading evaluation companies. We have the experience and networks to meet your monitoring, evaluation and reporting needs.

Coutts J&R provides you with industry leading expertise and tools to collect, interpret and effectively use information to make the best decisions for your project and program. Our expertise is in establishing evaluation frameworks, planning and undertaking monitoring and evaluation (or mentoring your staff as they undertake the process) and measuring and reporting on impact. Our challenge is to make sure that you have the information you need to make the most informed decisions and meet your reporting requirements.

Contact Details

Phone:
+61 (0)7 4630 1297
Mobile:
0438 361 153
Email:
jeff@couttsjr.com.au
Post:
PO Box 2681, Toowoomba Queensland 4350

Coutts J&R's Blog

Many evaluations I’ve worked on have either been focused around or include a desktop review. This could be of existing documents and/or trawling the web for other sources for information.

Trying to find relevant information is not always easy and can be very overwhelming, particularly when you have a big pile of documents to go through! It’s easy to fall into the trap of including too much information (just in case) into the report which then ends up huge and essentially just repeating what is already out there. This isn’t a very useful or analytical approach.

So I thought I’d share a few strategies which I have found helpful when having to trawl through a lot of information.

  1. Understand the end game. Is the review a main part of the evaluation or a contributing data source? What needs to come out of this report? An analytical conclusion or a summation of data?
  2. What are the key evaluation questions? Write them down. These guide your data collection and help keep you focussed on what information is important. Think of them as your interview questions and the data sources as your subject.
  3. Develop a report structure. This I find is the most important – it is your roadmap. By working out report headings (focused around the evaluation objectives) you’ll have a clear understanding of what information you need which means you won’t miss things and you won’t get lost. You should be able to intelligently read through your sources and address your headings. No one wants to have to go back over reports again and again re-checking data. But remember too that new information may emerge so you might need to add new headings as you go along – don’t become so focussed that you miss the little unintended outcome gems.
  4. Interrogate methodically. Go through your data sources methodically, one at a time, using your headings as a guide to pulling out the relevant information for your report. Don’t forget to attribute quotes and information (I find footnotes very useful for this) and include a list of all the data sources. Whether you state this up front or include in an appendix is up to you.
  5. Data presentation. Try to be as succinct as possible, use your own words and don’t data dump. By this I mean just cutting and pasting big sections of text from other reports etc. This isn’t useful and most likely, your audience has already seen this text many times and doesn’t need to see it again in your report! There may be different ways you can present the data. Could a table or graph be useful? Maybe an infographic could tell a great story?

While not exhaustive, hopefully these ideas give a little food for thought, help you to craft an interesting story and enjoy what is often seen as a hard slog!

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News Updates

International Evaluation Conference
The Australasian Evaluation Society’s international conference will be held this year in Melbourne on the 7th – 9th September this year. The theme is around ‘advocating and promoting evaluation and evidence-based policy making’. They note that this year is the UN International Year of Evaluation. More information can be found at: http://conference2015.aes.asn.au/.

Agriculture White Paper
There has already been a lot of discussion around the new Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The paper seeks to develop policy around five key priority areas: A fairer go for farm businesses; Building the infrastructure of the 21st century; Strengthening our approach to drought and risk management; Farming smarter; Accessing premium markets. As this is rolled out – it would seem as there will be an even stronger demand on extension and evaluation input. Read the paper or the short version here.

Rural Research and Development for Profit Program
Barnaby Joyce’s initiative to fast track development programs in agriculture has commenced with 12 projects being approved for a total of $26.7 million for round one. These projects are funded through R&D Corporations and involve extensive collaboration. Examples include: Stimulating private sector extension in Australian agriculture to increase returns from R&D (Dairy Australia); Consolidating targeted and practical extension services for Australian Farmers and Fishers (RIRDC); and Market and Consumer Insights to Drive Food Value Chain Innovation and Growth (Meat and Livestock Australia). Again this all bodes well for agriculture and the extension and evaluation sectors. More on the program can be found here.

APEN National Conference
The 2015 APEN national conference will be held this year in Adelaide from November 10-12. The conference with the theme of Managing change innovation and action in an ever shrinking world will focus on the knowledge and skills needed to embrace the challenges of the changing world before us. Jeff Coutts is one of the presenters with a paper entitled “The Growing Extension Patchwork – not dying but morphing.”

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