Development Evaluation Making Sense: Beyond the narrative (and the Power Point)

In today’s development space, there is no doubt that there are evaluations and there are evaluations”!

 

Many evaluations make sense and many don’t.

It is all too familiar to read Terms of Reference for evaluations in developing countries, written in such a way that they are simply “output” focused.

These “outputs” usually refer to an evaluation report (and perhaps a PowerPoint slide deck for good measure)! Added to this, is the very short timeline that is given to have these “quick and dirty” evaluations completed.

In fact, many of these end of project type evaluations are treated as an appendage to the project rather than as integral to programme development, influencing policy formulation and stakeholder learning and development.

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What is Development Evaluation?

Welcome to the TDC Evaluation Blog.

Our blogs will seek to bring a development perspective to Development Evaluation by examining some of the key lessons, issues, successes and challenges.

Development evaluation is a sub-discipline of evaluation.

The DAC’s definition of development evaluation has been widely accepted and adopted as being the “systematic and objective assessment of an-ongoing or completed project, program or policy, its design, implementation and results”. According to the OECD (2002), this type of evaluation uses a mix of methods also referred to as methodological triangulation- using several theories, sources or types of information and or types of analysis to verify and substantiate an assessment.

Development Evaluation: Beyond the Templates

Evaluations are plagued by the repeated use of templates that assume “one size fits all”.

This assumption is often based on the view that development happens in a linear “cause and effect” way and as a consequence, predetermined and prescribed templates are used time and again in evaluation design and implementation without sufficient understanding of the nuances and complexity of the development initiatives.

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Development Evaluation as A “Means to What End”?

Evaluation has often times been referred to as a “necessary evil” and has evoked great fear and anxiety in the minds of project staff who believe that they are being placed under the microscope and all their “short-comings” will be unearthed and made public. Furthermore, because of the prevalence of very prescriptive and linear evaluation approaches in developing countries, the “unexpected” and “unplanned” are not embraced as possible social innovations.

Consequently, a very defensive and disengaged stance is taken by project teams who resent the perceived “invasion” by evaluators (oftentimes referred to as “foreigners”) who arrive armed with prescribed templates and models allowing for little adaptation. Similarly, project beneficiaries and other key stakeholders feel that information is “extracted” from them without any future input into the process, findings or recommendations.

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Development Evaluation: Making Evaluation Count!

Are you contemplating or even commissioning an evaluation because it is “expected” of you or “required” by the donor?

Seems like the right “thing” to do as a development practitioner?

Or are you interested in making it “count”?

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