Quebec City, 22 June 2023 – Enriching traditional evaluation approaches would allow to better assess transformational change. In this context, applying systemic approaches to evaluate complex rural development interventions would help to address the complexity of change in evaluation. Mr Fabrizio Felloni and Dr Kouessi Maximin Kodjo, respectively Deputy Director and Lead Evaluation Officer at the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), raised these points during the 2023 edition of the Canadian Evaluation Society (CES) Conference.
The Société québécoise d’évaluation de programme hosted the annual Conference of the CES, which took place in Quebec City on 19 – 21 June 2023. The conference was preceded by professional development workshops on 17 – 18 June, and followed by international sharing sessions on 22 June. The event rallied renowned speakers, who came together to address the theme ‘Evaluation in a changing world’. The overarching objective of the conference was to provide an opportunity to reflect on the state of the evaluation practice by looking at where we are and what directions we should take in the future. At the centre of the discussion were questions focusing on how evaluation is evolving, how to manage the complexity of change, what change should occur in evaluation practice, and what are the challenges of professionalization.
Dr Kodjo attended the Conference in person, and presented recent experiences in evaluating complex rural development interventions. Speaking at the event, on 21 June, IOE’s Lead Evaluation Officer explained that assessing IFAD-supported operations requires dealing with complex change, as interventions often involve various strategic and operational dimensions, diverse institutional issues and stakeholders, and multiple themes. In this regard, examples of recent evaluations include the corporate level evaluation of IFAD’s support to agricultural innovations for inclusive and sustainable smallholder agriculture, and the sub-regional evaluation of IFAD’s supports in six countries in fragility-affected contexts in the Sahel.
To deal with the complexity of these evaluations, it is necessary to apply both theory of change (ToC) models and conceptual systemic frameworks. The ToC helps understand the multiple dimensions of change, possible causal relationships, key assumptions and other conditions. However, it appears insufficient to unpack complex change, when comprehensive themes or topics are involved. For this reason, a complimentary approach can help to identify project components where change can be obtained, to assess the types of changes possible and their interconnectedness, and to understand change rationale and process.
On 22 June, Mr Felloni acted as a panellist in the international sharing session titled ‘Evaluation for Transformational Change: Lessons and Way Forward’. In his intervention, IOE’s Deputy Director provided examples of evaluations that have assessed programmes seeking to generate transformative changes, such as a previous Evaluation Synthesis and an ongoing Thematic Evaluation on IFAD support to gender equality, and a Corporate-level Evaluation of IFAD’s support to pro-poor value chain development, completed in 2019. Given that transformative change is generally understood as a systemic change, Mr Felloni highlighted the importance of identifying and describing what system a programme or strategy is expected to change and what part of a system is going to be affected in particular. A system can be not only global, regional and national but also local, such as a traditional behavioural or normative system in a district.
The Deputy Director also argued that traditional evaluation approaches and methodologies, including the international standard evaluation criteria need to be enriched and updated, but not necessarily abandoned. Criteria such as relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability need some adaptation, but can be used to assess transformational changes.
Among other topics, the discussion highlighted the two editions of the award for Evaluation in support of transformation, which were held in 2019 and in 2022, and which were promoted by the International Development Evaluation Association, with support from IOE and the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank.
For over 40 years, the CES has helped evaluation professionals build and advance their careers, providing a wide range of professional development opportunities and expert resources. With a community of over 1,400 members across the country and abroad, the CES aims to continue providing a home for people working in the field of evaluation to connect and grow, so they can have a greater impact on everyone they serve.
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- To access the website of the CES C2023, please click here.