Monitoring and evaluation are typically important ways of learning about what works and what does not in any field of activity. Some literature on engagement is critical of a lack of good evidence coming out of effective M&E and suggests that more and more standardised work needs to be done to be able to compare the results of engagement across programmes and produce robust evidence to submit to funders. In this author’s opinion, the attempt to develop standard indicators with which to measure engagement work misses the point that engagement is necessarily done in different ways for different purposes. Effective M&E is important, but it needs to focus on the precise circumstances and purpose of each engagement activity and develop appropriate M&E measures for those circumstances. Efforts to unify measurement across very different activities will not tell a real story and, because of their methodological shortcomings, be counter-productive when it comes to convincing others.
A second problem area for evaluation of engagement and many other communication initiatives, is the frequent focus either on its value to the instigating party and/or on the priorities of the donor. There is relatively little material on evaluation of information/ engagement programmes in the Global South which looks at the user/participants' needs and expectations and whether these have been met. This gap could be seen as an opportunity for developing new practice.
Finally, like other process-based activities like knowledge sharing or management, 'engagement' is fairly nebulous and its value may be different to different people and, anyway, subject to a variety of opinion. It is thus far harder to evaluate convincingly than something concrete like a vaccination campaign. These issues are fairly well addressed in evaluation literature and i have included two working papers on evaluating knowledge processes which deal respectively with the problems and the opportunities of what are seen, like engagement, as interactive human processes. Another approach, which has had considerable traction with regard to knowledge management, is that of Self Assessment which can have the benefit of stimulating conversations within organisations about these issues as well as offering a method for analysis.