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Integrity Insights: Top Tips For Hybrid Evaluation Events

In April 2022, members of the Integrity team gathered in Islamabad to workshop findings from an independent performance evaluation of the FCDO Pakistan Multi-Year Humanitarian Programme. As parts of the world start to re-emerge from COVID-19 restrictions, we were able to conduct the workshops in a hybrid format using both in-person and online facilitators and participants. Here, Integrity Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager Steven Lally shares the steps taken to ensure that the event ran smoothly.

The FCDO Pakistan Multi-Year Humanitarian Programme aims to reach at least 2.5 million people across Pakistan with life-saving assistance and early recovery activities in response to natural disasters and conflict. Now in its final year, the evaluation team gathered for a series of outcome harvesting workshops. These were essential to identify, verify and analyse changes brought about by the programme.

The purpose of the workshops was to validate and refine existing findings and explore contextual issues relevant to the evaluation. The hybrid nature of the event meant we needed to coordinate in-person and online teams to ensure smooth running.

We took extra care to ensure that all partners could participate in equal ways, despite being in different locations. The event was very successful. Here we have captured the top five learnings that we took away from planning a successful hybrid event:

  1. Logistics and technology

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that it had been two years since the programme had hosted in-person events, so getting used to travelling and new locations again was somewhat of a shock to the system! As everyone had been working remotely for so long, in many ways participants were meeting afresh. We made particular effort to punctuate the agenda with breaks and opportunities to reconnect.

We ensured that rooms were big enough for breakout groups and that the technology strong enough to enable online facilitators and participants to dial in. We modified the schedule to suit the surroundings and at various points we gathered everyone online and in-person to contribute to plenary discussions.

We conducted many of the sessions using an online message board. To mitigate any connection issues, we worked with the venue’s technical team to provide an alternative Internet log-in and a Wi-Fi booster.

Top Tip – Test and then iterate. You can’t plan for all eventualities – particularly when it comes to technology. So make time to test systems and processes before the event, but then iterate as necessary as the event progresses.

  1. Facilitators

Having at least two facilitators – one in person and the other online – was essential. This enabled us to coordinate our respective participants and ensure that inputs were shared with the wider group. Ensuring adequate time for in-person and online facilitators to debrief during breaks and after each session helped ensure that everyone was able to share feedback on how the subsequent sessions could be modified or improved.

Top Tip – Ensure facilitators are on the same page and aware of what is required for each session so they can coordinate effectively between in-person and online participants.

  1. Backchannel communications

A backchannel to ensure that facilitators could keep in touch in real time to notify each other of issues or necessary changes was invaluable. We used WhatsApp to make changes to the running order and to ensure that the event was relevant and delivered to time.

Top Tip – Schedule debriefs with facilitators to adjust sessions as necessary and ensure that there is a separate backchannel so everyone can communicate during the event.

  1. Time difference

With the four-hour time difference between the UK and Pakistan, we had to factor in shorter days to accommodate participants and facilitators joining in both locations. The workshops also took place during Ramadan, so we needed to be mindful of scheduling in breaks and finishing at a reasonable time to enable people to break their fast at home.

Top Tip – Be respectful of people’s time, and ensure you communicate any changes as early as possible.

  1. Overrunning

Each of the days was different as we had more engagement in some sessions compared to others; meticulous planning before the event was essential.  The backchannel communications helped us to change the following sessions or break times as we went.

Top Tip – Before the event, plan any elements that can be dropped or changed if necessary. This enables you to account for sessions running over or under, as well as to shift focus where appropriate.