Who Evaluates the Evaluators?
Though more used to telling others how they’re doing, evaluators must also be willing to be assessed if they’re to be credible.
Twenty five years ago, evaluators were an exotic breed and donors trusted we were doing the right thing. Just having evidence and an evaluative assessment on project performance and results was highly valued. In fact, demand was so great that it spun off an incredible expansion in development evaluation.
This growth has had obvious upsides: the profession has grown, is innovating and finding new ways to pull together evidence that tells us what works and why, and is slowly maturing so that we can talk about professionalization and, eventually, accreditation.
It has also created heightened expectations around the quality of evaluation, and raised questions about who is evaluating the evaluators. Can we simply be trusted or should we be required to take our own medicine?
The simple answer is yes: if anything we should hold ourselves to stricter standards than we hold those whose interventions we evaluate.
Room for Improvement?
At IEG we have a multilayered system for quality assurance that involves internal reviews, external peer reviewers, and at times expert panels. We question whether an evaluation warrants being included in our work program, as much as we check the quality at entry and at completion of our evaluations through thorough review processes. We also expose our work to client feedback.
Yet, all of that is not enough, as none of it is as independent as we want it to be.
To fill this gap, we welcome that the Committee on Development Effectiveness, a committee of the World Bank Group's Executive Board, has commissioned an external independent review of IEG. The last such review was undertaken in 2004.
The main objective of this latest review is to provide suggestions and recommendations to the Board of Executive Directors in order to continue to enhance IEG’s impact and further strengthen its role as an independent evaluator of the Bank Group’s work. The review is expected to clearly identify IEG’s main strengths and areas where improvement may be necessary. The process is scheduled to conclude in September 2014.
In the future, the external independent review of IEG will be helped by our forthcoming results framework, which sets out clear objectives and metrics for measuring the outcome of our work so that others will be able to judge whether we contributed to improving the performance and results of the World Bank Group. (See my recent blog on When Rating Performance, Start with Yourself).
In addition, we engaged a group of renowned evaluation experts - Tom Bernes, Patricia Rogers, Ivory Yong-Protzel, and Franck Wiebe - to undertake a meta-evaluation of three of our evaluations. To ensure the independence of this panel, we separated the accountability for the evaluations, which lies in the departments, from that for the meta-evaluation.
The meta-evaluation panel also developed an assessment tool to ensure a systematic analysis of our products and to give us feedback on the independence, quality, credibility, and influence of our evaluations. This is a pilot program which will allow us to include certain checks in our regular quality assurance process and to decide how often we should commission such meta-evaluations in the future.
Striving for excellence in evaluation is essential for evaluations to be influential. It requires continuous learning and improvement, in which independent assessments of our work play an important role.