Washington DC, 10 June 2022 – “A fully independent office that is well-established has the foundations and the security that allow it to broaden its field of engagement – doing so will not threaten its raison d'être. On the contrary, by meaningfully engaging, evaluation offices will improve quality and data, whilst also ensuring long-term ownership of their evaluations”. This, according to Indran A. Naidoo, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), who was a session chair and presenting panellist during the Spring meeting of the Evaluation Cooperation Group (ECG), on 9-10 June 2022.
Hosted in Washington DC, the ECG meeting was the first to be held in-person since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and truly brought together a parterre de rois of multilateral development evaluation experts. Senior representatives of evaluation offices from all major multilateral development banks (MDBs) and other partners joined Dr Naidoo in delivering presentations and participating in discussions during the Spring meeting.
The IOE Director actively contributed to the event in several ways by engaging in different sessions at multiple levels, including as a chair, presenter and discussant. Dr Naidoo chaired the session focused on reflections from evaluating the COVID-19 response and implications for other shocks and crisis. The key joint session of ECG Heads and multilateral working group on ‘Managing for Development Results’ also saw featured a strong IFAD presence, with Dr Naidoo being joined by Nigel Brett, Director of the Operational Policy and Results Division at IFAD. Mr Brett represents the Fund on the working group, and made inputs during the joint session. The session was chaired by Lisandro Martin, head of the Results division in the World Bank.
The importance of finding ways to expand the evaluation processes to increase engagement, and what this means in practice, was at the centre of the presentation that Dr Naidoo delivered in the context of the session theme titled ‘Innovations in Learning and Accountability’, in which the IOE Director was a panellist. Moving from the premise that organizations that develop initiatives to change mindsets are two times more likely to succeed, Dr Naidoo explained the importance of customizing brain and neural science to the field of evaluation in order to prompt behavioural change by evaluators, increasing levels of reciprocity with the evaluand, and ultimately taking the debate to a higher level.
“Evaluation methodology is not just the choice of which tools to use, it is also the processes that are put in place in order to engage with the evaluand. Over the years, office transformative work was informed by insights from the research of Dr. Srini Pillay who brought to the fore ways to merge imperative and judgment imperatives with engaging more effectively with evaluands, who are influenced by their own psychological make up. Evaluators need to communicate more effectively and understand the psychological dimensions, which is what the filed of neural-psychology brings. A presentation made at IOE in its Coffee Talk series debunked five evaluation myths and provided insights on how to engage more constructively in the sensitive area of presenting evaluative findings”, Dr Naidoo explained in this regard.
The IOE Director put the spotlight on the concept of ‘principled engagement’, which moves away from traditional static approaches that foresee linear learning sequencing processes, in favour of dynamic engagement centred around a three-way relationship between independence, credibility and utility. This approach is exemplified by IOE’s recent efforts and successes in expanding engagement through the design and launch of several new and revised products and initiatives. These include the new Evaluation Manual, Independent Magazine, IOE-led learning events, IOE’s first independent website, and an upscaled evaluation report product mix.
“Evaluation supports accountability and learning to improve transparency and accountability. However, the area that can benefit from user perspectives is that of learning. In practice, the construct of all evaluation needs to accept engagement as a part of process credibility, and seen as necessary for generating ongoing reflection as part of the learning process to build understanding”, summarized Dr Naidoo in explaining IOE’s engagement-centred approach.
Contributions to the session included presentations by Alison Evans, Director General Evaluation of the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group, who addressed reforms to the World Bank’s Management Actions Record for more meaningful accountability and learning; Emmanuel Jimenez, Director General of Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank, on recommendations verses ‘issues to be addressed’.
Dr Naidoo also updated ECG members of key changes and innovations at IOE, including the new Evaluation Manual, new Multi-Year Evaluation Strategy, new Evaluation Policy, new independent website, new Independent Magazine, and enhanced engagement with the Global Evaluation Initiative, including vis-à-vis joint work towards the seventh National Evaluation Capacities conference.
The ECG was established in 1996 to promote a more harmonized approach to evaluation methodology. Members work together on joint and meta-evaluations and discuss such evaluation issues as the independence of evaluation offices in MDBs, evaluability assessment, the results agenda of MDBs, and lessons learning and dissemination.
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*Photo: Indran A. Naidoo, Director IOE; and Lisandro Martin, head of the Results division in the World Bank, and Chair multilateral working group on ‘Managing for Development Results’.