Helping Public Agencies and Nonprofits Communicate for Evidence-Driven Action

Posted October 12, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Indian male consults with his female African American colleague using a laptop, sitting in a modern office near a panoramic window.

Evi­dence is cru­cial to the work of gov­ern­ment agen­cies and non­prof­it prac­ti­tion­ers. Shar­ing that infor­ma­tion is equal­ly essen­tial. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Evi­dence” — a new brief from the Urban Institute’s Fed­er­al Eval­u­a­tion Forum, with fund­ing sup­port from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion — high­lights chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties for orga­ni­za­tions that share evi­dence. It details con­sid­er­a­tions for ensur­ing infor­ma­tion is time­ly, read­i­ly avail­able and clear.

Pub­lic agen­cies and non­prof­its can share evi­dence in many ways, among them:

  • arti­cles in pro­fes­sion­al journals;
  • research sum­maries dis­trib­uted through the media, newslet­ters and oth­er means;
  • broad datasets, data sum­maries and data visu­al­iza­tions; and
  • webi­na­rs.

Respect­ed indi­vid­u­als or orga­ni­za­tions with a large fol­low­ing can help broad­ly share infor­ma­tion as well, the brief notes.

The Casey Foun­da­tion invests in efforts to help pro­grams build and doc­u­ment their evi­dence by devel­op­ing the­o­ries of change or log­ic mod­els, cre­at­ing sys­tems for con­tin­u­ous feed­back from par­tic­i­pants and more. This brief is an impor­tant reminder about the need for non­prof­its and pub­lic agen­cies to make key evi­dence acces­si­ble, time­ly and under­stand­able,” said Ilene Berman, a senior asso­ciate with the Foundation’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group. Deliv­er­ing evi­dence and infor­ma­tion well is essen­tial to gen­er­at­ing the action nec­es­sary for young peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties to ben­e­fit from effec­tive pro­grams and policies.” 

Know Your Audience

The brief rec­om­mends that orga­ni­za­tions iden­ti­fy their tar­get audi­ences and reg­u­lar­ly assess how they hear about, under­stand and absorb evi­dence being shared. Key tar­get audi­ences, the brief notes, can include: 

  • pol­i­cy, leg­isla­tive and bud­get deci­sion makers; 
  • gov­ern­ment exec­u­tives and administrators; 
  • pro­gram prac­ti­tion­ers, man­agers and staff; 
  • those using or affect­ed by gov­ern­ment services; 
  • media, inter­est groups and asso­ci­a­tions; and 
  • researchers and academics. 

Orga­ni­za­tions must care­ful­ly con­sid­er how to best deliv­er evi­dence to these vary­ing tar­get audiences. 

What works well to com­mu­ni­cate with one set of users may not work well for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­er impor­tant evi­dence users,” the brief notes. This is true whether com­mu­ni­cat­ing through evi­dence repos­i­to­ries, train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, wall posters, hand-held devices, sto­ry­telling, report cards,’ visu­al­iza­tions or oth­er means.”

The brief high­lights, for exam­ple, a recent study that visu­al­ly depict­ed the same patient data in three dif­fer­ent ways. The study found that the dif­fer­ent visu­al­iza­tions affect­ed how doc­tors under­stood and recalled the infor­ma­tion. Orga­ni­za­tions can doc­u­ment how their tar­get audi­ences are obtain­ing and using the evi­dence they pro­vide through tools such as feed­back ques­tion­naires, sur­veys and workshops.

The sec­ond in the Urban Institute’s Basics of Evi­dence series, the brief includes a range of exam­ples and resources to guide orga­ni­za­tions look­ing to improve their use of evi­dence. It fol­lows the release of What Is Evi­dence?”, the first in the William T. Grant Foun­da­tion-sup­port­ed series.

Learn More About How To Com­mu­ni­cate a The­o­ry of Change

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