After you have analyzed the data and determined what can be said about your program, you are ready to develop recommendations. Keep in mind that they are written as "action items" and must be supported by the evidence that you uncovered. They also must be realistic—that is, they must be things that are possible and within the control of decision-makers.
In Section 2, several reasons for conducting an evaluation were discussed, including:
To measure progress toward goals.
To determine if the program is effective in achieving the outcomes you want.
To identify areas where the program could be improved.
Recommendations need to be aligned with the reasons for conducting the evaluation and what you hoped to learn. For example, if your evaluation was conducted for:
Improving program operations, your recommendations may address ways to make the program more efficient by proposing changes to procedures or to resource allocation and use.
Improving the program's ability to reach its outcomes, your recommendations may include:
- Alternative approaches to reach the program outcomes.
- Areas where training and technical assistance are needed.
- Strategies to promote successful aspects of the program.
Determining the future of the program, your recommendations may suggest:
- Expanding or replicating a successful program to provide additional services.
- Reducing or terminating a program that is not meeting its outcome.
As always, engaging stakeholders can be very helpful when formulating recommendations. Once your recommendations are written, you will want to communicate them, along with other results from your evaluation, to a wider audience. But before launching your communication efforts, it's good to pilot test your messages and recommendations with those who are closest to your program, to make sure all are comfortable with what is being shared. The next section discusses this further.