Our Approach

Evaluation and Communication in Practice

Developing evaluation and communication capacity in information society research


Utilization-focused evaluation (U-FE) and Research Communication (ResCom) are complementary planning, learning, and engagement approaches that research teams can use to ensure that their work is relevant, accessible and harnessed by development partners. Through the DECI project, we provide mentoring to research teams in both topics, and on that basis we help them design or update their Theory of Change. As we mentor the teams, we have witnessed how they make explicit what they wish to evaluate and communicate; our coaching works as a reflection pause that helps teams fine-tune what they do, why and with whom.

Our team combines U-FE and ResCom MENTORING like Lego blocks depending on the project needs. The U-FE mentoring helps projects CLARIFY their OUTCOMES, ASSUMPTIONS, and THEORY OF CHANGE. The communication mentoring helps projects define their COMMUNICATION STRATEGY to address: relationship building, networking needs, dissemination efforts, and policy influence. Our support helps our partners become adaptive and more able to manage complex issues or emerging change.

Our Team offers to work with projects from the FORMULATION stage, during implementation and finally in REPORTING RESULTS. Our SKILL TRANSFER strategy is applied by walking with the partner through the U-FE and ResCom steps. We actively FACILITATE access to information resources and interaction with other partners. All this leverages the partner’s ADAPTIVE CAPACITY through evidence-based learning to adjust strategies as conditions required.

Most of our partners we support are experimental and learning-oriented projects; their outcomes often evolve during implementation. Our mentoring allows projects to clarify directions, collect evidence, learn systematically and course-correct.


Diagram v2

Our team works directly with our partner project staff. These people are professionals who manage RESEARCH NETWORKS, as well as smaller grantee level RESEARCH PROJECTS that are hosted by a wide variety of ORGANIZATIONS, such as think tanks, universities, and advocacy groups.

Our team aims to do a site visit to the partner’s location at least once, and ideally twice, in order to become aware of the situation and context of the project. Otherwise the mentoring is done remotely.

The process works best when it starts at the formulation stage of our partners’ project. Our team agrees with the partner to provide mentoring in U-FE and Research Communication at a pace that is based on the partner’s schedule of work. We call this approach JUST-IN-TIME MENTORING. This mentoring is iterative, earlier assumptions are often revisited to help the teams adjust to change.

This video – produced by the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services (CRECS) at the University of Ottawa – highlights DECI as an effective capacity development approach that provides partner projects with support in Utilization-Focused Evaluation (U-FE) and Research Communication (ResCom). DECI’s partners typically are IDRC-supported research networks and grantees working on applied projects in new fields such as Open Education, Open Science, etc. Much of their research is exploratory, so most of their outcomes are emergent and the projects often need to adjust their strategies. DECI’s approach places emphasis on an early ‘readiness assessment’ and on ‘just-in-time mentoring’ that is offered at a pace that matches each project’s timing and priorities.