Monday, March 07, 2016

Why I am sick of (some) Evaluation Questions!

[Beginning of rant] Evaluation questions are are a cop out, and not only that, they are an expensive cop out. Donors commissioning evaluations should not be posing lists of sundry open ended questions about how their funded activities are working and or having an impact.

They should have at least some idea of what is working (or not) and they should be able to  articulate these ideas. Not only that, they should be willing, and even obliged, to use evaluations to test those claims. These guys are spending public monies, and the public hopefully expects that they have some idea about what they are doing i.e. what works. [voice of inner skeptic: they are constantly rotated through different jobs, so probably don't have much idea about what is working, at all]

If open ended evaluation questions were replaced by specific claims or hypotheses then evaluation efforts could be much more focused and in-depth, rather than broad ranging and shallow. And then we might have some progress in the accumulation of knowledge about what works.

The use of swathes of open ended evaluation questions also relates to the subject of institutional memory about what has worked in the past. The use of open ended questions suggests little has been retained from the past, OR is now deemed to be of any value. Alas and alack, all is lost, either way [end of rant]

Background: I am reviewing yet another inception report, which includes a lot of discussion about how evaluation questions will be developed. Some example questions being considered:
How can we value ecosystem goods and services and biodiversity?  

How does capacity building for better climate risk management at the institutional level
translate into positive changes in resilience

What are the links between protected/improved livelihoods and the resilience of people and communities, and what are the limits to livelihood-based approaches to improving resilience?