Why writing a brilliant brief is so important
Every consultant will know the frustration of reading a brief and at the end of it having more questions than answers. A brief is often the first touch point with an organisation so it’s really important that you create a good impression and set the tone with a brief that is clear, well thought through and gives a potential consultant all the information they need. We have in the past taken the decision not to tender for contracts based on a poorly written brief so we thought we would share our insight into the most common mistakes that organisations make when writing a brief.
· Lack of clarity of outcomes - The first of these is actually less about the brief itself and more about the development of clear and realistic measurements against which the projects impact will be measured. Without knowing what you want evaluated it is impossible to say how we will do it! We could write a short novel about this subject, and we will cover it in subsequent blogs, but we wanted to flag it here because so often we look at a brief and don’t know what the project outcomes are or think the outcomes seem overly ambitious or aren’t really outcomes at all.
· Insufficient information provided – It is almost impossible to respond to a brief without a really solid understanding of the project itself and what its purpose is. It’s also key to know what and how data is already being collected, who is responsible for collecting this and what your expectations are of an external consultant. Alongside this you need to be clear about the different stakeholders that need to be engaged as part of the evaluation. It’s also really helpful to know what the scope of the evaluation is. Is it an impact evaluation or a project-wide evaluation. Ideally your brief should be about 4-6 pages long.
· Not stating what you want to get out of the evaluation – Be clear about the outcome of the piece of work i.e. to learn the lessons of a different approach or to report to funders or to develop a subsequent project.
· Unclear reporting requirements – It is important to be clear about what you expect the consultant to produce. Do you want an interim report or a final report with recommendations and an executive summary or a presentation. Specify whether the costs associated with producing the report are included in the budget. Include who the audience for the final evaluation report is as this will shape how it is written and the design. You might wish to clarify who will own the work and have copyright.
Hopefully the next time you sit down to write an evaluation brief you will avoid these pitfalls. If you would like any specific advice or training on writing briefs please get in touch we’d love to hear from you.