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29.03.2019 - Leaving a footprint: Evaluations that make a difference

The book “Dejar huella/Leaving a Footprint” relates seven stories of evaluations in Latin America and the Caribbean that aimed to bring about positive changes for local people in a diverse and innovative way. The examples cover a wide range of different projects from the areas of health care, education, women’s rights and land rights affecting specific universities, individual target groups such as children, young people or indigenous women, or even entire communities. Relating some surprising and entertaining aspects, these stories identify the factors that made it possible to use evaluation to improve local developments.

What are good evaluations?

The book addresses the question as to how institutions deal with being evaluated. The individuals concerned often consider a pending evaluation to mean that they are being checked up on and made accountable. Only seldom do they perceive the opportunities for learning that an evaluation brings. The examples collated in the book demonstrate how the expectations of monitoring and sanctions can be overcome if the evaluation team places a greater emphasis on opportunities for improvement and learning. The key conclusion is that particular attention needs to be paid to the way the evaluation process is designed. The authors call for close contact between the evaluating parties and the organisations involved. Moreover, they stress the importance of participatory methods in order to achieve acceptance and a willingness to put the evaluation results into practice. Making a distinction between the “usefulness of the results” and the “usefulness of the process", they underline the potential for change that is to be found in the evaluation process itself.

In addition, the publishers criticise the fact that many evaluations concentrate on efficiency, effectiveness and measurable results that can be achieved in the short term, rather than contributing towards democratic, transformative and participatory purposes. They therefore maintain that the focus of evaluation should be extended to include the contribution to public welfare and pay more attention to medium and long-term results, as well as any unexpected consequences of development measures. They also advocate taking account of the causes of social problems addressed by programmes and policies.

The book is based on the work of a research project, “Evaluation of Public Policies in Argentina and Latin America: Analysis of the Facilitating Factors of its Demand, Use and Adoption”, developed by the National University of San Juan (UNSJ), Argentina. DEval also played a role in the publication of the book by contributing a case study from Costa Rica and providing financial support.

Further information about the book can be found on the UNSJ Website.

Evaluation Capacity Development (ECD) at DEval

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