Professionals in evaluation pay a lot of attention to how to evaluate. We are less thoughtful about exactly what to evaluate, why, and how we define ‘success’. Stakeholders’ interests and questions tend to determine what will be useful to focus on at a particular point in time. Or we use a predetermined set of criteria, usually the so-called DAC criteria - relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability - to direct and focus evaluations. Yet this widely accepted practice can prompt us to neglect important issues that should be on our agenda if we are serious about the role of evaluation in supporting sustainable development, and understanding whether we are on track to achieve the SDGs. Failure to focus our evaluations appropriately can lull us into dangerous complacency about accomplishment and success.
Zenda's seminar focused on the need to evaluate the quality of plans, actions and results from a complex systems perspective. She highlighted the utility of analyses of the interactions between the SDGs and argued for a focus on the evaluation of transformative change. She gave examples of how we can be misled if we divorce ‘impact’ from its significance and sustainability, and from development trajectories; fail to engage with the values, assumptions and theories underlying development models; consider something to be successful when negative consequences or impacts (‘spillovers’) have not been taken into account, or appropriate sequencing of interventions has not been done; and give insufficient consideration to societal dispositions & patterns influencing efforts towards real, sustained change.
You can view the video and slides of Zenda's seminar online here:
** Please note that due to technical difficulties the first few moments of the seminar and associated slides were missed from the filming. Zenda's full slides are available to download please contact firstname.lastname@example.org