Rome, 25 April 2023 – “The new geo-based tools at our disposal allow us to deal with evaluative questions that we could not address in a satisfactory manner in the recent past. This is especially true for natural resource management and climate change projects”. Fabrizio Felloni, Deputy Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), made this point during the course of a podcast. In the interview, Mr Felloni explained that geo-based tools are an important complement to existing evaluation techniques.
The interview with IOE’s Deputy Director was part of the Evaledge Podcast Series, which is an initiative of the European Evaluation Society (EES). The series focuses on the use of frontier technology in evaluation and on methods to evaluate innovations. In the latest episode, the Evaledge team presented IOE’s experience in using innovative technologies such as geospatial data in evaluation.
Today, geo-based tools and satellite imagery present multiple interesting opportunities for evaluators all over the world. An important starting point is to recognize that some projects are more amenable to these techniques, such as those that have produced visible infrastructure that can been seen from the sky. Other examples of areas of use may include soil characteristics, vegetative cover and climate change impacts and interventions. For all of these, free and easy-to-access geo databases may complement investigations on-the-ground with valuable evidence. In the future, geo-based tools could even help to make field visits more cost-effective and time-efficient, including by allowing to analyse project sites in advance.
IOE’s interest in the use and application of geo-based tools for evaluation dates back to in 2017, when they were first used to compare deforestation rates in Mexico in sites that were supported by IFAD projects as opposed to locations that were not. The analysis showed a big difference. Since then, IOE has adopted a simple but effective approach.
“We have not discontinued the traditional way of conducting evaluations. We still think that the best way is to go on-site, see the reality on the ground and talk to people. At the same time, we recognize that the availability of geo-based data allows us to look at things that we could not access in the past. What we do is to look for solutions that have low costs and involve limited inputs from external specialists”, Mr Felloni explained.
For example, last year, during an evaluation, IOE used geo-data to ascertain that the carbon content of the soil in a certain location was very low. This information – which was obtained at no extra cost –corroborated the insights gathered through the field interview process.
Limits to the application of geo-based tools by evaluators persist, nevertheless. While in some cases the nature of a given project may not be suited to the use of these resources, or evaluative questions may be such that geo-data cannot offer any assistance, in other cases evaluators may simply not be aware of the geo data that exists, and which can be accessed at little or no cost. Moreover, there may be a certain degree of scepticism towards these innovative approaches, especially among evaluators who may not have been exposed to these technologies.
For this reason, it is important to have manuals and guidelines that help to introduce people to these resources. In this regard, IOE has recently published its first guidance note of the use of geospatial tools and applications. This open access document helps people to better understand what tools are currently available, and what kind of data can be gathered through these resources.
“In our guidance on using geo-tools, we have tried to match existing tools with evaluation questions and criteria. This is important, because the technological tools at our disposal will only work for us to the extent to which we know how to use them and adapt them to our needs. The key is to first define your questions, then to look for the best technological solution to assist you”, noted Mr Felloni.
EvalEdge, is the EES podcast that provides insights into the implications of new and emerging technologies in evaluation, and vice versa. The Podcast explores frontier technologies such as big data, machine learning, open data, geospatial analysis, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoTs). The purpose is to identify the role of evaluators and the field of evaluation in shaping how these technologies can be adapted in international development and in larger society. It also looks into a wider application of the traditional methods to evaluate innovations, and seeks to introduce novel methods having potential to be applied in the evaluation field.
For further information, please contact Alexander Voccia [here]
- To access IOE’s guidance note of the use of Geospatial tools and applications to support IOE, please click here.
- To access the podcast interview with Mr Felloni, please click here.