Rapid Evaluation

real-time evaluation, rapid feedback evaluation, rapid-cycle evaluation, rapid appraisal

Rapid Evaluation is an approach designed to quickly and systematically conduct an evaluation when time or resources are limited.

Rapid evaluation methods have been used in multiple settings including public health, emergency management, international development and agriculture as a way to deliver program evaluation findings quickly to inform decision making. 

Many terms are used to describe these approaches, including real time evaluations, rapid feedback evaluation, rapid evaluation methods, rapid-cycle evaluation and rapid appraisal.  The common feature of these different models is the expedited implementation timeframes which generally range from 10 days to 6 months.

Other common features across rapid models include:

  • Iterative and flexible design that can be adapted to context;
  • Use of multiple methods, noting that many models rely heavily on qualitative data;
  • A participatory approach that involves stakeholders in design, data collection and analysis;
  • Multi-disciplinary and highly skilled teams to deliver within shortframes;
  • Concurrent streams of work whereby data collection and analysis often occur in tandem;
  • Action oriented findings and recommendations; and
  • Tailored communications products to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders.

There are a number of drivers for using rapid methods as opposed to more standard evaluation approaches including where:

  • A short-term or immediate outcome is expected, for example in a public health crisis where improvement in infection control is expected to happen within a short timeframe;
  • Near-term decision-making is required, for example where there is an impending decision about whether to maintain, expand or terminate a pilot program; or
  • There are limited resources and/or available for the evaluation.


Rapid Evaluation during the COVID-19 Response

In this webinar for the Australian Evaluation Society, Eleanor Williams (Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Australia) outlines the new methodological approaches that have been developed in the Victorian public sector to capture service and practice changes that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to deliver findings into response and recovery planning for government services.  This rapid evaluation model builds on established processes for rapid reviews and applies it to the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.



Methods of Rapid Evaluation, Assessment and Appraisal: This article in the American Journal of Evaluation by Miles McNall and Pennie G Foster-Fishman reviews the key differences and common features of the rapid evaluation and assessment family of methods and present a case example that illustrates how evaluators can use rapid evaluation techniques in their own work.

Using Rapid Appraisal Options Performance Monitoring & Evaluation TIPS: This TIPS sheet by USAID Center for Development Information and Development Evaluation gives an overview of various uses and methods for real-time evaluation (which it refers to as rapid appraisal).


An introduction to rapid qualitative evaluation: This blog by Cecilia Vindrola-Padros presents the field of rapid qualitative research, discussing the rationale for the use of these approaches, the most common types of rapid study design, the challenges of carrying out rapid research and the future development of the field. 

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McNall, M. & Foster-Fishman, P.G., (2007) Methods of Rapid Evaluation, Assessment and Appraisal, American Journal of Evaluation 28(2):151-168. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249773524_Methods_of_Rapid_Eval...

Williams, E., (2020). Webinar: Rapid Evaluation during the COVID-19 Response, Australian Evaluation Society. 15 July 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.aes.asn.au/evaluation-learning/professional-learning-events/pl-events-vic/1001922-old-seminar-rapid-evaluation-during-the-covid-19-response   

Vondal, P (2010)  Using Rapid Appraisal Options Performance Monitoring & Evaluation TIPS, Washington DC, USAID Center for Development Information and Development Evaluation. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20130302141625/http://transition.usaid.gov/p...

Vindrola-Padros, C. (2021), An introduction to rapid qualitative evaluation (blog) Social Research Evaluation. Retrieved from: https://www.the-sra.org.uk/SRA/Blog/Anintroductiontorapidqualitativeeval...

Cite this page

Williams, E. (2021). Rapid evaluation. BetterEvaluation.

A special thanks to this page's contributors
Director, Centre for Evaluation and Research Evidence, Victorian Department of Health.
Melbourne, Australia.


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