Strengthening monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacity is central to achieving the sustainable development goals. As governments work to achieve their targets across the 17 sustainable development goals, demand is increasing for M&E systems and skills to measure and track progress, and translate implementation lessons into course-corrections. And yet, despite this growing demand, initiatives to increase M&E capacity in developing countries have remained fragmented and of varied quality, and the reliance on external [international] evaluators to meet donor requirements continues.
Despite the challenges, there have been some efforts by governments, development partners and other stakeholders to explore more effective ways to meet this growing demand. One such example is the Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) Initiative – a global program that brings together academic institutions and donor partners to contribute to the use of evidence in decision making in developing countries.
Now in its fifth year, the CLEAR initiative has six regional centers covering Anglophone Africa, Francophone Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Brazil. In 2016, the CLEAR centers served nearly 13,500 individuals through activities targeted mainly at government, academic and civil society clients.
CLEAR’s secretariat is housed at the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), with support coming from various partners including the Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as bilateral country donors such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and Belgium.
As the global hub, IEG manages fund allocations from donors to the centers and helps provide strategic support, in terms of business plan development, curriculum design, and cross-center knowledge sharing and learning. Once a year, representatives from the different centers come together to share experiences, discuss what’s working and what’s not working, and plan priorities for the upcoming year. This not only helps to create a global learning community, but also fosters opportunities for exchanges, and cross-support.
CLEAR Initiative - a unique, scalable approach to evaluation capacity
So what sets CLEAR apart from other ECD interventions?
First, it places evaluation capacity development where it is needed – in the client countries. Traditionally, most ECD interventions have taken the approach of offering fellowships and scholarships to M&E practitioners from developing countries to attend courses in mostly western universities. While these approaches may have some merits, they are expensive and not scalable. By setting up regional centers of excellence, CLEAR provides a more cost-effective alternative. This approach also ensures that capacity building interventions respond directly to contextual, on the ground needs, and not a “one-size-fits-all”.
In Africa, for example, the CLEAR Center hosted by Wits School of Governance – part of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa -- has partnered with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) to deliver several in-service training courses on planning and implementation of programs, evaluation design and theory of change. As long term partners, the Center and DPME have worked together to develop a national evaluation policy, and transfer lessons from South Africa to other countries in Africa.
East Asia, the regional CLEAR Center -- hosted by the Asia Pacific Finance and Development Institute -- has successfully used traditional and online-based training formats. A new pilot online program for certified public accountants launched in 2016 attracted more than 10,000 Chinese participants.
Second, each of the CLEAR centers fosters evaluation capacity development within existing local institutions. CLEAR teams tend to be faculty and researchers from the host academic institution. In Mexico, for example, CLEAR has partnered with Centro de investigacion y Docencia Economcas (CIDE), while in India, the initiative is working with J-PAL South Asia at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR). In Senegal, CLEAR has partnered with the African Center for Advanced Studies in Management.
Third, the CLEAR Initiative is not just about training, but seeks to provide a holistic set of services, including training, technical assistance, advocacy, knowledge sharing, evaluation and research to help clients build M&E systems and capacity.
For example, the CLEAR Brazil and Lusophone Africa center, FGV/EESP CLEAR, partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank last year to conduct a multi-tiered evaluation for the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina’s Secretariat for Education, the Federation of Industries of the State of Santa Catarina.
The Latin America Center hosted by CIDE has partnered with the federal and subnational governments, academia and civil society to host an annual week-long national evaluation week, that brings together diverse stakeholders to increase awareness and promote knowledge sharing about the importance of evaluation.
Similarly, the CLEAR South Asia center has partnered with India’s premier civil service training academy to offer M&E training on a retail and Trainer of Trainer model. And in Tamil Nadu, the center is advising the state government on how to improve quality of government data collection and evaluation commissioning.