Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



1. Foreword

In order to increase the impact of IFAD’s strategies, programmes and projects, reliable and useful feedback about ongoing and completed operations is needed, as well as the ability to analyse this feedback, derive relevant strategic implications, and ultimately, learn how to do better in the future. OE’s fundamental challenge is to structure this learning process in such a way that it generates relevant knowledge for our partners; at the same time ensuring that this knowledge can and will be applied in practical and immediate ways. This is why the transformation of each evaluation into a systematic and operations-oriented learning exercise is at the core of OE’s New Approach to Evaluation.

This new approach defines OE users as partners, a collaboration of multiple actors, within as well as outside IFAD, engaged in IFAD’s development process. As we learn and share our knowledge in a co-operative relationship with our evaluation partners, we can increase the likelihood of our partners adopting and using our products and services. Valid findings and recommendations are relevant only when applied, and to this end, we design evaluation processes that engage and commit our partners to actions that will improve the performance of their operations. This is why OE’s New Approach to Evaluation emphasises the need for evaluation to finish not merely with a publication, but with an understanding among the evaluation’s partners to adopt specific findings and recommendations.

OE’s New Approach to Evaluation stresses the importance that Country Programme and Thematic Evaluations/Studies can have in revisiting existing or formulating new operational policies and strategies. While project evaluations will continue to remain important, they are not necessarily the most cost-effective instrument at OE’s disposal to learn how to improve the performance of our partners’ operations. In the future we anticipate OE’s increased involvement in dealing with issues related to evaluation of strategies and programmes at various levels.

With these ideas in mind, in 1999 OE revisited and redefined its evaluation process as a learning process, and improved two of its key evaluation products: the Thematic Evaluation/Study and the Country Programme Evaluation.

The proposed new evaluation process outlined in the following pages is meant to be an action-research experiment. The year 2000 will be a year in which we will test and validate the new evaluation processes and related procedures and attempt to discover what is needed to make these methods and tools effective instruments for our partners.

2. Why a New Evaluation Process?

Evaluations establish opportunities for organisational learning and for the improvement of policies, programmes and projects in the light of experience. But they do not automatically ensure that our partners will learn from these lessons, nor that IFAD policies, programmes or projects will be re-oriented. This is the responsibility of the Partnership (see box below): PMD staff, Borrower, CBOs and other stakeholders. We can, however, design an evaluation process that forges a stronger link between learning lessons and implementing them.

Core Users as a PartnershipThe importance of learning to the evaluation process has always been evident, but what is becoming increasingly clear is that those who are expected to use evaluation recommendations and lessons for improving performance should participate in the process of developing these recommendations. Our partners both act and reflect on their actions. Certainly an objective external point of view may be valuable to the learning process, however, the performance of operations will be enhanced by the degree to which OE’s partners entrusted with the implementation of operations become the motivated learners, and are able to translate into action what they have learned through evaluation work. To be effective, our evaluation processes need to respond to this requirement.

To drive learning towards action, we are introducing three main features to the New Evaluation Process (NEP):

  • The Approach Paper as the starting point of each evaluation;
  • The concept of Core Learning Partnership to steer the evaluation process; and
  • The definition of the completion point of each evaluation process as an agreement or understanding among OE and its partner

One of the most important features of this process is the agreement from the outset on a completion point for the evaluation, which will bring the main actors together to identify and agree upon the key issues to be analysed. This will consequently lead to the formulation of lessons learned and recommendations that are most appropriate for performance improvement. The NEP also requires OE’s evaluation partners to anticipate how they will use the recommendations at the end of the process. This results-oriented approach assures that the NEP will respond to the needs of the partnership.

In addition, the NEP will experiment with the use of Core Learning Partnerships (CLPs) composed of core partners that will steer the evaluation process throughout its cycle. The CLP is an informal and flexible platform for partnership, open deliberations and learning among the key stakeholders. It can range from a group of stakeholders who are consulted at various steps in the process to a clearly identified core of partners with whom we collaborate to manage the evaluation learning process. The CLP may be organised for a variety of reasons: to develop an evaluation action plan; design the stakeholder participation approach; collaborate on the design of the Approach Paper; discuss progress of the evaluation efforts; discuss findings, conclusions and recommendations, and finally, to organise the negotiations and agreements about lessons learned and recommendations and next steps to take in implementation. Although the OE team is responsible for the integrity of the final outcome of the evaluation analysis, by engaging the CLP in guiding the learning process, OE intends to increase the commitment of our evaluation partners to the final outcome of the evaluation process. The CLP will serve as a platform on effective and real time transfer of knowledge and learning generated through evaluation to design and operation.

The Approach Paper is a new instrument for OE. We have always used highly detailed Terms of Reference to guide past evaluation missions, however, the Approach Paper goes beyond this. It describes the overall framework for the evaluation, describes the process that the CLP will use throughout and the kinds of methods it might employ during each step, and finally, defines the expected results.

OE will also endeavour to keep its evaluation processes as short as feasible, while preserving analytical rigour as well as allowing enough time for discussion and interaction with all partners to stimulate joint learning. In 2000 OE will endeavour to keep the time involved between the drafting of the Approach Paper (Step 2) and the Completion Point (Step 6) within the following indicative deadlines:

Project Evaluation Six months
Thematic Evaluation/Study1 Eight months
Country Programme Evaluation Eight months

 

1 Excluding those TE/S that will be implemented in phases.