The activities of building and strengthening evaluation capacities in partner countries fall under the term ECD (evaluation capacity development). By ECD we understand a long-term endogenous process of change in which people, organisations and the society as a whole strengthen and maintain their capacity to commission, implement and systematically use evaluations. The strengthening of evaluation capacities is not ultimately a goal in itself but a means of producing more effective policies and programmes to achieve desired development outcomes (cf. OECD-DAC EvalNet 2012).
Importance of evaluation capacities
Through the debate on ways of making development cooperation more effective, international community has made a commitment to new principles for cooperation. Some of these principles highlight the importance of evaluation capacities.
For example, the principle of ownership says, among other things, that developing countries should have leadership in drawing up their strategies for combatting poverty. Evaluation capacities in partner countries make it possible for these strategies to be based on (evaluation-generated) evidence so they can address needs more effectively.
Another principle is that there should be a focus on results, and for this we must find out through evaluation "what works" and how it works.
As for the principle of partner alignment, this implies inter alia that donor countries can make use of local monitoring and evaluation systems and that these systems may first of all have to be strengthened.
Moreover, the idea of mutual accountability again assumes that both sides – the donor and partner country – do evaluation.
These principles for enhancing development cooperation effectiveness were agreed in the course of the international debate, and Germany is one of the countries committed to them. The building of evaluation capacities in partner countries creates the necessary requirements in terms of structures and human resources to put into practice the principles for enhancing development cooperation effectiveness.
ECD at DEval
In addition to performing evaluations and advancing evaluation methods, DEval sees the promotion of evaluation capacities in partner countries as a core area of its work. Our expertise and experience, gained in the first two areas, are being applied in partner countries to the task of building and fostering evaluation capacities. The long-term aim here is to establish and promote evaluation as a management tool for governments in partner countries.
So it is to this end that DEval carries out its various ECD activities. Our ECD is based on a systemic approach which treats the individual, institutional and social levels as interrelated subsets that are to be appropriately promoted in order to optimise far-reaching synergies. Thus, individual capacity development initiatives may be concerned with individual people or with the functioning of a whole institution. And in an institution, it is not enough to employ staff members with relevant know-how; rather, comprehensive organisational prerequisites must be put in place to facilitate the growth of an evaluation culture – a culture of commissioning or conducting evaluations that will prove useful and be used. At the societal level, civil society plays an important role alongside the public authorities in performing the functions of evaluation.
DEval takes the following approaches:
ECD through individual projects: In the context of long-term projects, specific areas of intervention are carefully coordinated and implemented jointly with representatives of central organisations and institutions. A range of activities are aimed at building the capacities of individuals, institutions and organisations and strengthening the partner country's evaluation culture of commissioning, implementing and using evaluations. For instance, DEval is collaborating closely with the government of Costa Rica on FOCEVAL (Fomento de Capacidades en Evaluación). FOCEVAL is a project helping to create more training opportunities in evaluation, and making evaluation an integral component of the processes occurring in governmental and non-governmental organisations and in societal sub-systems. It is also supporting the transfer of knowledge between various interested Latin American countries and promoting capacity building in those places.
ECD as part of evaluations: Intensive use is made of national structures when DEval undertakes evaluations. For instance, we involve national evaluation services and collaborate with universities on the ground. National experts are systematically integrated in DEval's work and, where necessary, given specialist support and training.
ECD through ad hoc consultancy: When informed of needs in a partner country, DEval can share its expertise in the field of monitoring and evaluation. Such ad hoc consultancy services might include specialist support for the development of evaluation systems, input into training programmes or advice on the development of quality standards for evaluations.
Based on the experience gained in working in ECD, DEval seeks to play an active role in the ongoing discussions among experts on the future of ECD. We intervene in the debate at both national and international level. DEval is, for instance, represented alongside Germany's Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) in the ECD Task Team of the OECD-DAC. We are a member of EvalPartners and actively participate in international and national conferences. DEval will be reporting regularly on important lessons learnt from our work.