Getting Fit for 2030: Evaluation Beyond 2015
2015 heralds great changes with far-reaching implications for evaluation
2015 is the year in which global leaders and the community at large define their vision for a better world in 2030: a world of greater prosperity, greater equality and inclusion, and greater resilience against climate change. An ambitious vision that will need to reconcile conflicting demands of growth, equity, and the environment.
For evaluation and evaluators, the evolving scenario has a number of implications including the need to:
Recently, I attended the Financing for Development summit in Addis Ababa where global leaders agreed on a global framework for financing sustainable development. More than ever before, significant emphasis is being placed on the role of governments in development. Compared to 15 years ago, client countries have substantially more domestic public resources at their disposal. And they will have even greater spending power by 2030.
Domestically funded development programs will give further impetus to local evaluation capacity development. Governments will want to better understand what their programs have achieved, and how to improve them. And, there is increasing public demand for accountability. Enhanced evaluation capacities have the potential to empower governments and citizens to understand the value and effects of publicly funded programs.
This shift in focus from aid to government programs, regardless of the source of funding or partner, also opens the opportunity to move the evaluative gaze beyond public sector investments. If properly developed, evaluation can be used to identify and weigh evidence of the development outcomes associated with private sector, global partnerships, and their partners' policies beyond aid.
The last ten years have witnessed a great uptake of evaluation in partner countries. Concerted efforts are needed to further develop evaluation capacities, particularly given the challenges that evaluation itself needs to overcome to be fit for the future.
In my view, the three most significant challenges for evaluation that derive from the SDGs and climate change agenda are:
Then there are issues intrinsic to the evaluation profession. They have to be addressed to ensure evaluation is fit for the future. Such issues are not the sole responsibility of evaluation itself, but they do provide opportunities through which evaluation can provide transformational leadership.
Let me start with the most difficult first: values. Policy-makers, citizens, and evaluators all have stimulated strong commitment to measurement. And that's great! Measurement embeds what we value. If we want to live in a more inclusive world, it needs to be a world that recognizes diversity in value systems. This is even more so for intrinsic but diverse values like gender-equality, cultural diversity, and the like. We e-Value-ate and, as such, have the opportunity to open a discussion about values in the post-2015 world.
Second: incentives. There is also a need for the profession to make a much greater, conscious effort to promote metrics (used for evaluation purposes) that incentivize "right" behaviors. Will metrics invite people to "game the system" or, instead, to take a hard look at what is working and fix what's not? If evaluation is to be embedded into daily business and be effective, we have to get these incentives right. As evaluators, we have to become more deliberate about our power to influence behaviors.
Finally: effectiveness. Evaluators need to better demonstrate the difference that evaluation makes. Maybe 15 or 30 years ago, evaluation was novel and generally assumed to be "good." But, we have learned a lot in the intervening years, including a lot about the danger of poor quality evaluations that can affect decisions and reputation in ways that many other professions cannot.
To sum up, 2015 is an extraordinary year. The seeds of promise for a better world by 2030 have been planted. Of course, the greater the opportunity, the greater the challenge. For evaluation, none of the challenges are easy. They will need to be addressed and taken on by deliberate, dedicated, and sustained efforts on the part of the global evaluation community.