Evaluating dissemination and exploitation
The process of spreading and utilising the outcomes of your project does not end with dissemination and exploitation. Once you have communicated your project's results and distributed its outputs - whether they are products, methods, experiences, policy lessons or European co-operation - you may consider carrying out an evaluation.
Evaluations deliver the final verdict on the success of the dissemination and exploitation process undertaken by your project, according to their results and impact. The evaluation process has not received enough attention among project managers who have a tendency to overlook this follow-up activity.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that little in the way of benchmarking and good practice has been identified to guide project managers when carrying out such assessments. In addition, dissemination and, in particular, exploitation requires time and that can mean that the evaluation would need to be conducted beyond the actual contractual period of the project.
Despite these challenges, good evaluations are important, partly for the sake of accountability and partly because they help project managers understand better the benefit of the dissemination and exploitation process.
Evaluations also serve other functions. Their outcomes help decision-makers to design future programmes and initiatives, decide on the efficient allocation of further resources, improve the quality of on-going programmes and report on achievements to the public. Evaluations can aid in identifying results and in passing dissemination and exploitation of good practices to stakeholders. This, of course, depends on the transferability of results.
These assessments can be done in-house or they can be conducted by external evaluators. They can be published periodically during the life of the project or as a final report at the end of the project, but need to be planned well in advance of the project's launch and carried out throughout its lifetime.
Among the tools used to carry out evaluations are assessment questionnaires which are sent out to the project's target audience(s) and other beneficiaries. Their responses are then analysed statistically for trends and patterns. New projects can use existing dissemination and exploitation evaluations as benchmarks for their own future activities in the field, adapting these experiences to their particular context. If you are the coordinator of a current or future project, it is advisable to consult older reports for inspiration and to get a rough guide on how to conduct such assessments.