Why Measure Engagement?

Complex detail ordered in a usable way. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do you want to understand better about your programs?

What do you want others to understand better about your programs?

These two questions are a starting point for evaluating public engagement programs and for understanding a diverse set of public engagement programs, based on a portfolio-level measurement and evaluation (M&E*) system.

Many people and institutions involved in public engagement have been told they need to “show impact.”  This need dominates many current discussions of measurement and evaluation of public engagement activities.  Impact evaluations absolutely offer the potential of providing useful information for marketing and reporting purposes, but it’s my goal to demonstrate that measurement and evaluation systems can contribute much more to improve public engagement activities, helping to

  • improve programs
  • contribute to research and build generalizable knowledge
  • communicate contributions to public value
  • enhance external coordination and public access
  • support internal coordination
  • contribute to performance management
  • provide reports to external organizations
  • enable strategic planning
  • make funding decisions

It’s also my goal to provide a place to support program evaluation for public engagement activities, with a pragmatic focus on gathering useful information—often under conditions of time, resource, or contextual constraints—while keeping public value at the center of the frame.

The posts and pages on this website dig deeper into these M&E purposes, talking about strategic questions M&E can answer and approaches for addressing each purpose.   Please explore if you are looking for ideas on how thoughtful collection of public engagement data might help enhance your program or portfolio of programs.

* M&E often refers to Monitoring and Evaluation.  I prefer Measurement and Evaluation as a broader, less threatening term.