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.

In so doing, there are many missed opportunities for exploration, discussion and learning from unintended outcomes, unplanned consequences, anomalies and key innovations.  This can mean that the richness of the development experience and the adaptive responses are not captured because the templates do not make allowances for these variations to what was already prescribed by the logframe.

In other words, use of the templates can further perpetuate a “tunnel vision” syndrome in evaluations.

This is not to suggest that there isn’t need for and tremendous value in the use of robust evaluation models that allow for sound measurement of accountability.  However, more organic approaches are needed that are not necessarily confined to being “summative” or “formative” but rather, that allow for an understanding of the variations in the pace and tempo of activities, outputs and outcomes in development initiatives.

One size does not fit all in development evaluations.  In fact, because of the “shape shifting” nature of development initiatives, both size and fit can (and should) evolve iteratively overtime.