Thursday March 26th, 2020 ARCO LAB

5 key benefits of external evaluation for cooperation and development projects

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ARCO Research Center is personally committed in spreading the culture of evaluation. The reason is simple: evaluation is the only way to understand which interventions really work and why!

I have learned that success depends on knowing what works 
Bill Gates

Thanks to the evaluation, organizations can focus their efforts – and resources – on those actions that proved most useful and effective, in order to achieve the maximum possible impact.
Indeed, to evaluate is fundamental for several reasons:

  • ♦ Evaluation allows to learn from experience, helping in identifying lessons learned and best practices, to constantly improve the impact of projects.
  • ♦ Evaluation allows to deepen the history behind the projects’ results, that is, it helps you understand why an intervention was successful or failed.
  • ♦ Evaluation allows to observe the results of the project from multiple angles, because it considers all categories of beneficiaries and stakeholders involved, deepening their different points of view.
  • ♦ To evaluate increases the transparency of an organization, because it demonstrates the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of its work in the eyes of financiers and stakeholders.
  • ♦ Evaluation allows to easily communicate the value of an intervention, because it clearly quantifies its results and its social and economic impact.

How is the evaluation carried out?

Evaluating a project or programme requires defining a comprehensive strategy for data collection and analysis, using methodologies appropriate to the objectives of the evaluation and the context of intervention.

An evaluation strategy must be developed ad hoc for each project, in order to take into account:

♦ the type of intervention;
♦ the objectives of the intervention;
♦ the types of actors involved (beneficiaries, but also stakeholders, project staff and experts);
♦ the specificities of local context;
♦ the resources available.

Ideally, the evaluation of a project or programme should be commissioned to a specialized external body or company, in order to guarantee a professional and objective analysis.
Although there are a number of perfectly valid reasons for an organization to decide to carry out the evaluation work internally, an external evaluation brings multiple key benefits.

5 key benefits of external evaluation

1. Experience and competence

An expert evaluator has undergone a specific training and brings a wide-ranging experience, developed by working on different types of projects, implemented in a wide variety of contexts and using different methodological approaches.
This competence and experience allows him to identify the most effective evaluation strategy for each project, applying the  methods and tools that are most appropriate to accurately measure results and impact.
The skills of a professional are essential especially when you want to evaluate particularly innovative or complex interventions, the effect of which cannot be correctly measured by standard approaches.

2. Objectivity

The point of view of an external evaluator allows you to observe your project with a more objective and impartial look, precisely because it is external and independent from the organization that implements or finances the activities. Objectivity is essential to evaluate the real success of a project or program, as well as to allow an organization to learn correctly from its experience.

3. Credibility

Stakeholders and funding bodies tend to give greater weight to the results of an independent external evaluation, precisely because it is perceived as more impartial and rigorous. In fact, even when an organization does its best to objectively self-evaluate its performance, the conclusions risk anyway to feel somewhat self-congratulatory.

4. A detached point of view

An external evaluator has the ability to provide a “fresh” and detached point of view on the project and its results. After months or years of work, the project staff is often so immersed in the management of the activities that they risk not paying attention to any unexpected effects that are being revealed. The external point of view of the evaluator allows to notice those changes that would otherwise go unnoticed (and therefore not measured).

5. Cost-effectiveness

An external evaluation service can be particularly convenient for small and medium-sized organizations, which often do not have sufficient resources to dedicate full-time internal staff to data collection and evaluation activities. In these cases, considering an external evaluator might prove to be the most economically advantageous option.

Read more on ARCO’s evaluations here:

M&E Impact

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