Monday, 17 June 2019

Small group work - keep it fresh and productive!

It is the early afternoon of the second workshop day; the participants are a bit drowsy from a rich lunch; messages have piled up in their smartphones and some people would prefer to deal with those rather than discussing strategy or whatever the workshop is about. Small group work is on the workshop plan. What can you do to keep it lively and productive?

Friday, 17 May 2019

Two or three reasons why two are better than one

Evaluations come in many shapes and sizes. I have led multidisciplinary teams in multi-year assignments, and carried out smaller assignments all by myself. Last year was a lucky year, because most of my work happened in one of my favourite configurations: the tandem or duo - as in two competent persons with complementary or partly overlapping skills and knowledge working together as evaluators on an equal or near-equal footing. Two evaluators working together - even if one of them participates for a shorter spell of time than her colleague - means so much more than the sum of two persons' capacities. 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Is there a way to measure efficiency in human rights work?

Jasmin Rocha and I reflect on measuring efficiency in human rights programmes in a new guest post on Zenda Ofir's evaluation blog. Have a look here - and enjoy browsing!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Why internal evaluations need external perspectives

Internal evaluation can be an excellent way to check the quality of one's work, to track progress (in programmes or projects, for instance) and to gather information for management decisions and longer-term learning. To make the most of such exercises, they should go beyond self-reflection. Especially for small to medium-sized teams or organisations, sitting around a table and contemplating one's strengths and weaknesses, as well as successes and failures, is a good start, but just not enough.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Quick evaluation: What a difference a couple of days make!

You know those evaluations that come with dozens of questions on a whole complicated international development programme (or even set of programmes), to be answered within one week of desk work, one week on-site and one week to tie it all up? They are still around and they are not about to disappear. I used to hate them: The time frame makes it near-impossible to draw reasonably rigorous samples of respondents (for interviews or for a survey) and there is so little you can do and see in a week at the programme site. What can an outsider find out in one week that an insider doesn't know yet? After having worked on a couple of "quick evaluations" in recent months, I have adopted a milder stance. They can generate useful insights. But how? Here are a few tips.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

VEPR Certified

I am delighted to announce that I have been an EES VEPR certified evaluator since autumn 2018. EES stands for European Evaluation Society, VEPR for Voluntary Evaluator Peer Review - a stringent process whereby the evaluator, in cooperation with two experienced international colleagues, identifies own capacities and weaknesses (and ways to deal with the latter) in a documented dialogue that spans over several weeks

Join the EES and try out the process, it really helps to know and hone your assets!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Join us at the EES Biannual Conference

This week, Jasmin Rocha and I will be presenting a paper on stretching the limits of the DAC criteria - in particular, the one on efficiency - to deal with the realities of human rights work. Join us in Thessaloniki on Thursday 4 at 10:30!

For more information on the conference, follow this link.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Recent resource on human rights funding

The Foundation Center has published an appealingly designed, informative resource on human rights grant making around the world, mapping tens of thousands of grants by hundreds of foundations. 

You can search the database by region, by issues/rights, by "populations" (meaning, for example, women & girls, human rights defenders, migrants & refugees) and by strategies (for instance "grassroots organising", "arts and culture", "litigation and legal aid"). The resource is reasonably up to date; data on the grants is from 2011 to 2015. More "qualitative" information has been posted up to late 2017, with promises for new updates in 2018. 

Obviously, this resource is very interesting for those who who seek prospective donors. But its structure can also inspire those who wish to gain a structured overview of international human rights work - with the caveat, though, that this resource does not reflect the kind of work that does not get international funding.

Free e-prints of our article on effective evaluation in the field of violence against women and girls

A couple of years ago, Wolfgang Stuppert and I conducted a review on behalf of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) of evaluation methods in the field of violence against women and girls. We used qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), a relatively new method, that has yielded useful insights. You can find plenty of information and links on our dedicated site www.evawreview.de

Meanwhile, Development in Practice has published our article on this review. The article is geared to evaluation practitioners - people who commission, conduct and use evaluations. We can share a few free e-prints; if you wish to have one, use this link. First come, first served. When the free lot is used up, you can still view the article on the Taylor and Francis site here and, of course, in the printed publication. 


Our full report is still available from the UK government, for free.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Friendly feed-back on our quasi-experimental evaluation

The German national centre for crime prevention (NZK) has published a synthesis of studies on efforts to prevent violent extremism among youth. Our 2015 study on the HEROES project in Berlin (Raab & Stuppert 2015 - unfortunately Wolfgang Stuppert is misspelled in the article) has been lauded for (1) our  definition of a highly relevant central evaluation question which the evaluation could actually answer with methods that we described transparently, and (2) the strengthening of the internal validity of our findings by the use of propensity score matching in quasi-experimental research.

Those who wish to read the full NZK text (in German only) can find it here. A summary of our study is available from this page of the Berlin Senate (in German, too); just download publication BFG Nr.57/2015.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Choosing appropriate evaluation methods

Barbara Befani, a reliable source of high quality information, has held a talk at the Centre for Development Impact on choosing appropriate evaluation methods. Listen to her presentation here; it comes with a slide show that is best watched while listening to the talk.

The spreadsheet which helps choosing appropriate evaluation tools is available from the BOND website here.  Enjoy! And contain your disappointment if you realise that most methods won't work with the weak data and skimpy resources available for your evaluation.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Evaluation Norms and Standards - now in six languages!

The United Nations Evaluation Group norms and standards for evaluation are now available in all UN languages - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. 

Read them - spread them - use them! You can find them here.

In recent years I have been involved in large reviews of evaluations in the development sector, studying a couple of hundreds of evaluation reports. Many of the evaluations would have been vastly better if they had complied with, or at least been inspired, by evaluation norms and standards. I don't say that every evaluation must attain the quality of rigorous scientific research - in the opposite, time and resource constraints usually don't permit rigorous research in the context of evaluations, anyway. But you can still try to make it useful. 

At least, evaluators must make sure they respect the rights and safety of people who participate in the evaluation - i.e. ethics. Otherwise, the harm caused by an evaluation might outweigh its benefits.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A must-read for evalutors, campaigners and everyone: Beware of confirmation bias

Followers of this blog know that bias is a recurring topic on these virtual pages. Evaluators must be aware of bias to produce robust work. After this year's elections and the disturbing success of "alternative facts" and "post-factual" phenomena, the topic's importance has been acknowledged way beyond research circles, entering public debates.

Bias affects everyone's judgment - and that includes ourselves! A good way to deal with bias is to know about it, to seek out opinions that conflict with ours (i.e. mine, yours, everybody's), and to keep thinking.

A February 2017 issue of the New Yorker aptly summarises a few recent books on confirmation and "myside" bias. Find it here and read it - it may change your way of seeing things, and help you understand why others may sometimes seem terribly obtuse.

And if you like the idea of a song about the types of bias that may occasionally cloud your mind, have a look at this earlier post.

 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Getting those evaluation reports right

The other day I tried to remember how many evaluation reports I reviewed or used over the last ten years - probably a couple of hundreds. An astonishing number of reports felt like a a waste of time (and money). Anyone who is in the international development business knows how extremely diverse evaluation reports tend to look in this sector - from clear, concise and comprehensive to inintelligbile, interminable and still incomplete.

It is super-frustrating when - for example - you carry out a meta-analysis of evaluations and you have to discard half of the reports because of their poor quality.
 
Now, the great Better Evaluation site has published a checklist for evaluation reports, which lays down the characteristic of the ideal evaluation report. Find a link to download it here (a new page opens and there you'll click on "View Resource" to get the checklist). It is an annotated checklist with tips on how to write well. A wonderful resource. Use it and spread it to everyone who writes evaluations!

By the way - and I believe I have posted that earlier - Better Evaluation also offers guidance for managing evaluations and TOR writing. An important resource for those who commission evaluations. Because even the best-written report will be of little use if it answers the wrong questions, or if it can't answer the TOR questions because the resources at hand don't match the expectations. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

All that research for NOTHING?

A very accessible video by 3ie starts with evidence from a recent study by the World Bank. It has found that a third of the research reports published by the World Bank on its website have never been downloaded by anyone and 87% never referred to in any subsequent research. This is extremely wasteful. Remember, our tax money pays for such research.

So the big problem is maybe not that too few research reports and evaluations are published - the big problem is that people don't use them, because they don't look for such evidence, or they find the reports too hard to understand. The latter can be dealt with by writing in a more accessible style. Finding time to think and explore may be more complicated.