Evaluations are only worthwhile if they are used. For this reason, systematically preparation and encouraging the utilisation of the evaluation is just as much a part of the ninth step of the evaluation process as the actual utilisation of the evaluation itself.
For the longest time, the utilisation of an evaluation was understood to mean exclusively the use of evaluation findings, i.e. everything presented in the (final) evaluation report. It is now widely recognised that the evaluation process itself can already bring a wide range of benefits to the object of evaluation. In other words, participation in the evaluation process itself - whether as a client, manager or data provider - can lead to (desired) changes in individual thought and action or to reflexive learning. This happens when one deals intensively with evaluation goals and also undesirable findings regarding the object of evaluation and when one is exposed to the expectations of other stakeholders and possibly interacts directly with these stakeholders. These examples of utilisation can all have an impact on the organisational units responsible for the object of evaluation or on its political or social context - even while the evaluation is still in progress.
There are several types of utilisation: Instrumental utilisation means the use of the evaluation and its findings by relevant stakeholders, in particular for improvement and fundamental decisions. Conceptual utilisation is understood to mean including or processing evaluation findings in research findings by the scientific community, for example, or in suggestions to members of a given profession or in advocacy work to influence public opinion.
Rather undesirable cases of utilisation occur when evaluation findings are used to justify decisions already reached and not disclosed before the evaluation was carried out or when the evaluation is only carried out for show.