Evaluation Trends: Moving Beyond the OECD/DAC Criteria
One of the latest trends in Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) is adaptive management, which increasingly recognises the importance of evaluation as part of the MEAL spectrum and as an essential step when taking management decisions. One of the greatest benefits stemming from institutional donors’ increased focus on adaptive management is a widening recognition of the need to learn, iterate and adapt through evaluation as a continuous activity rather than a separate task. The ability to act based on evidence varies significantly depending on the willingness and expertise of programme managers and MEAL focal points to work together and review multiple kinds of evaluation information at various stages throughout a project life cycle. The current trend indicates that financing inputs is not enough for donors anymore; demonstrating long-term changes is the condition for large-scale projects.
When conducting evaluations with the objective to improve implementation, there are two dimensions to consider; a rigid or a flexible programme approach. In fact, there are two kinds of information needed from baseline to endline: knowledge of what causes change and knowledge of the context where project activities will be implemented. By addressing these two important questions in each evaluation, it will be easier to understand the kinds of data needed to inform how decisions are taken. For example: do we know enough about the target groups and their needs? Do we have enough equipment to improve a certain structural issue in the areas with the most acute exposure to it? Are we addressing an immediate shock or a long-term issue, or do extremes alternate? All these contextual variations inform the management style and the speed needed to make decisions, either to adapt to evolving risks or to consolidate results. In both cases, evaluation and evaluative monitoring require adequate methods to inform the programme manager.
Author: Nicola Giordano, Mariagni Ellina