There is a saying that goes, “Wise is the one who flavours the future with some salt from the past”.
In April 2020, EvalPartners embarked on a year-long journey to evaluate its 2018-2020 Strategic Plan. It started with the development of a Terms of Reference by the EvalPartners Evaluation & Knowledge Management Committee (EKMC) and the appointment of the Canadian evaluation firm, BAASTEL as the independent evaluation consultant, shortly after.
A series of intensive document reviews, 13 semi-structured interviews, five focus group discussions with 40 individuals, and e-surveys with both VOPEs and EvalPartners leadership followed to arrive at the final Evaluation of the EvalPartners Strategic Plan 2018-2020.
A special note of thanks goes to the Evaluation Management Team, specifically the evaluation manager Kassem El-Saddik, who under the direction and guidance of the EKMC kept the evaluation process on track amidst an unexpectedly challenging year. Further acknowledgement goes to all members of the Evaluation Reference Group (ERG) as well as to Claudine Voyadzis and Élodie Roy, the evaluation team leaders from BAASTEL (pictured below). EvalPartners wishes to also thank the donors who made this evaluation possible including the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC), the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
Summary of findings
The main findings are presented along five evaluation criteria: relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability.
[blockquote author=”” link=”” target=”_blank”]As part of the evaluation dissemination plan, you can download this slide deck to post on social media. The findings will be shared during the June/July 2021 period[/blockquote]
Time for reflection: a fork in the road
The evaluation indicates that EvalPartners has reached a critical moment in its evolution from a number of perspectives: an increase in competition with other global evaluation platforms; concerns regarding leadership and management; ongoing issues of knowledge management, monitoring and reporting; and most urgently, fundraising needs.
Nevertheless, EvalPartners still has significant potential, and an opportunity to reflect and build on its history, structure, and brand as an evaluation champion, in order to reinforce its capacity, visibility, and impact on the international evaluation scene.
Broad, ambitious objectives – yet addressed comprehensively
Since its creation in 2012, EvalPartners has catalyzed a large range of actions on the global evaluation scene. Its Strategic Plan 2018-2020 represented a new effort to contribute to the objectives of EvalAgenda2020 by setting up two Flagship programs. However, these objectives appear too broad and ambitious for the three-year timeframe of the Plan, and as a result, they have proven neither measurable nor achievable, complicating efforts to establish and communicate the added value and successful accomplishments of EvalPartners. Nevertheless, the platform remains relevant in the evaluation landscape because it addresses all key aspects of evaluation in a very comprehensive way.
Positive, substantial outcomes enabling follow-up programs
All in all, the evaluation found that implementation of projects and activities was satisfactory for the period under review. Implementation of the Flagship 1, the P2P and the Innovation Challenge programs led to positive and substantial outcomes and they offer lessons to be applied for effective follow-up programs. Other successful, though more modest, activities such as e-learning modules and VOPE toolkits also remain key for EvalPartners’ future.
Three issues highlighted
The evaluation considered three crucial issues that required follow-up from recommendations in the 2018 Stocktaking Exercise. First, with respect expansion of EvalPartners partnerships, this evaluation found little progress. Second, regarding needed improvements in coordination among networks, the evaluation found that the Coordination Committee, created to increase shared initiatives among networks, is not yet functioning optimally, indicating continuing management and communication issues. Finally, on implementation of the revised EvalPartners governance structure, the evaluation found weaknesses in representation of EvalPartners stakeholders at the leadership level, given that the ExCom comprises members from EvalPartners key partners and IOCE, but no chairs or co-chairs from the networks or coordinators of the Flagship (and other) programs which carry out the core EvalPartners activities.
Rethinking project monitoring & reporting
The evaluation also brought to light project monitoring and reporting issues: the absence of a shared performance measurement system complicates access to reliable information and learning from EvalPartners activities, and until this is addressed, it will be difficult for EvalPartners to learn from its experiences and communicate its achievements and experiences. With the exception of reports on Flagship 1 programs, which are for the most part well documented and include lessons learned and recommendations, the evaluation found few M&E mechanisms to ensure the capturing of key learning and information from project implementation, entailing the loss of valuable insights that could be used in decision making. To address this issue, the Evaluation Knowledge Management Committee is tasked with “devising a realistic performance measurement and evaluation plan for EvalPartners and oversee its implementation.”