Make a Strategic Evidence Plan

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain how to begin strategic evidence planning.
  • Identify templates to assist in your continuous evidence building.
  • Implement strategic evidence plan templates.

Strategic Evidence Planning

Now that you’re familiar with Impact Management tactics and the elements of continuous evidence building, it’s time to introduce you to strategic evidence planning. 

Strategic evidence planning is the formal process of creating an overall roadmap to guide your organization’s investments and activities related to continuous evidence building. Strategic evidence planning is foundational to continuous evidence building. It ensures that you have carefully considered why you are building evidence, what evidence-building strategies should be prioritized to achieve your particular goals, and what actions and resources are necessary to implement those strategies.

Templates can help in the creation of your strategic evidence planning roadmap by charting out individual data components and their relationships to each other. The Impact Evaluation team has designed three templates that are available with this module (see download links in the Resources list at the end of this unit).  We’re mentioning the templates now so you can familiarize yourself with them, but don’t stress about completing them right away. We cover that in more detail in the next unit.

The Theory of Change template is designed to reveal and quantify the resources that go into a project: budget, staff time, and relationships with other organizations. 

Social impact executive team discussing the Theory of Change template

It also includes:

  • Activities, broken down into different components: Perhaps you’ll describe the assessment process or steps taken to develop trust with subjects. Another great use of this section is to consider ways that activities are delivered—and which delivery methods are most effective.
  • Products, services, or facilities that result from those activities: Usually these are expressed in the number of users, sessions, or scheduled contacts.
  • Outcomes: Effects from activities and their relation to your mission.

The Learning Agenda template prompts you to consider key questions such as these: What gaps exist in your theory of change assumptions, preventing you from building better evidence (baseline data)? What activities will you implement to answer those questions to build the evidence for your program (surveys, research, or data analysis)?

Social impact executive considering key questions for his organization’s learning agenda

Creating Your Strategic Evidence Plan

Ready to get to work on your strategic evidence plan? Begin by asking yourself, “What problem am I setting out to solve?” Then determine your key audience and how you’ll reach them; efficiency is key.

Starting with that central problem you’re hoping to solve, begin to work outward. You’ll want to answer questions like the following and apply them to your organization, services, and community.

  • Who is most affected and to what degree?
  • How do you identify them, and are they indeed the proper targets of your outreach efforts?
  • In what ways does your organization connect with them to solicit their feedback, and is there opportunity for honest and, if necessary, anonymous support of your data collection mission?

Next, train yourself to think of the issue you’re hoping to address from the perspective of a solved or resolved problem. Work backwards from there to brainstorm some of the things that contributed to success, and write down what those steps might have looked like. 

Assess the potential for these hypothetical steps.

  • Are they practical and able to be effectively implemented?
  • Does the data you’re collecting support these new concepts of service delivery?

If the answer is yes, you’re on track to reap the rewards of your investment in a strategic evidence plan.

You now have a map for how to equip yourself with a wealth of perspective and direction. Next, we’ll take a closer look at how to build out your theory of change and learning agenda to make big changes for your organization.


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