Happy New Year to all our members and users. While we’re happy to wish the year 2020 farewell, many of the challenges and difficulties that arose over the past 12 months are still with us, as is the sadness over the many different forms of loss we’ve all experienced. We’re entering 2021 with a spirit of reflection, inspired by how the global community has pivoted and innovated, and determined to meet the ongoing challenges of 2021 and help our community do their best work.
Some of the things we’re proud of over the past 12 months
One of the things we’re proud of in 2020 is taking on the ownership and moderation of the Peregrine Discussion Group for Better Evaluation. The Peregrine Discussion Group was initially known as the ‘Pelican Initiative’ (Platform for Evidence-based Learning & Communication for Social Change). Pelican was started in 2004, by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). In June 2020, due to changed priorities of ECDPM’s strategy, BetterEvaluation (betterevaluation.org) took over the moderation of the group under the new name of ‘Peregrine Discussion Group for Better Evaluation’. Over 2,500 existing Peregrine members opted-in when we took over this discussion list, and since then 1,700 new members have joined. We’ve been really pleased to see the richness of discussion taking place – with members giving generously in their replies to others in the group, whether this is advice on how to approach a specific type of evaluation or deeper questions of what it means to be an evaluator. You can join the Peregrine Discussion Group here.
We’re also proud of the number of people who used our site over the last 12 months. In 2020, there were over 1.46 million visits to betterevaluation.org, up nearly 10% from the previous period. We hope this indicates that we have been able to provide helpful information to people in what has been a difficult year for many. We’ve also been chipping away at minor but important site and usability updates and fixing bugs and broken links. While we’ve been doing this, we’ve also been working really hard on some major upgrades to the site to improve accessibility and the information architecture – to make it easier for people to find the information they need, when they need it. These changes are being informed by our user research supported by Comic Relief. One of the things we’re grateful for in becoming an independent organisation is having the time and resources to focus on major projects such as this – with a special thanks to our funders for making this possible. We’re still in the first stage of this upgrade project, but expect to see some major developments from this in the first half of this year.
Some of the partnerships that we were excited to be a part of in 2020 and beyond
This includes the work done through our Capacity Strengthening stream, led by Greet Peersman. Some highlights of the past year include the development and pilot of a moderated online course on evaluation for UNICEF staff with evaluation responsibilities, in collaboration with the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) and with input from UNICEF staff and other evaluation experts. This online course is part of a blended learning program in a multi-pronged evaluation strengthening initiative in UNICEF. The course will be rolled out in 2021 with cohorts of UNICEF staff in all regions.
BetterEvaluation also contributed to an innovative partnership with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Pacific Community (SPC) for the first Pacific Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Convening in 2019, which gathered stakeholders from across the region to develop a collaborative initiative to strengthen Pacific capacity for contextually and culturally appropriate MEL, and drew on a specially developed MEL systems diagnostic as an important discussion starting point for strengths-based MEL planning in the Pacific. Building on this convening, the SPC team led the collaborative development of a Pacific Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Capacity Strengthening Rebbilib. For the Pacific. With the Pacific. By the Pacific. This document was launched in July 2020 and we’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this process and acknowledge the hard work that went into this.
We also worked with the Insights, Monitoring & Evaluation team of MFAT (New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade) around maximizing the utility of theories of change and M&E frameworks in their work. We learned directly from MFAT staff about the strengths and challenges in this area, and, collaborated with the IME team to update some of the guidelines and think through integrated approaches to further strengthen capacity.
We're also very pleased to be an Associate Partner of the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI), which is being launched through a series of global events. The GEI is a global partnership committed to developing country-owned, sustainable monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks and capacities to promote the use of evidence in public decision-making, enhance accountability, and achieve better results. It brings together a broad and diverse coalition of governments, (inter)national and local development organizations, and M&E experts to pool financial and technical resources to coordinate and expand M&E efforts globally. You can learn more about the GEI here.
Projects that energised us in 2020 and beyond
Footprint Evaluation is a new project and partnership started in 2020 that we’re really excited about. Footprint Evaluation addresses what we see as an urgent need to include consideration of environmental impacts into all evaluations. Led by BetterEvaluation, this international collaboration aims to explore methods and processes that might be used and what could support or hinder applying them. As part of this project, we will be trialling a new model for building and sharing knowledge about better evaluation practice, involving a combination of applied case studies and reflection with individual and organisational thought partners. As part of this collaboration, we have developed a new thematic area on the BetterEvaluation knowledge platform to share resources and emerging insights. You can check out an early version of the new page here.
We’re also continuing to focus on adaptive approaches to evaluation, and using evaluation for adaptive management. You can catch up on our ‘Adapting Evaluation in times of COVID-19’ blog series, which we’ll be continuing this year. We’ll also be releasing 2 new papers in our ‘M&E for Adaptive Management’ series, a paper on methods and tools, in partnership with DFAT, and a paper on Real-Time Evaluation in partnership with NORAD.
And we’ll be starting a new content focus on the site in partnership with UNICEF: Better Monitoring. Effective monitoring of development and humanitarian projects, programmes and other initiatives is essential for improving their performance but often falls short of what is required. Globally, the monitoring function in organisations has not benefitted from the same collective investment and inter-organisation cooperation in professionalization and systems strengthening as the planning and evaluation functions. In the coming months, we’ll be working with UNICEF and other organisations to start addressing some of the gaps. You can read more about this project here.
Reflection on the contributions of those no longer with us
Finally, we’d like to highlight the work of two members of the international evaluation community who sadly passed away at the end of 2020. You can read our reflections on the work of John Mayne and Marie Gervais here. Both have made important contributions to the culture, community, and practice of evaluation.
As we enter our second year as an independent organisation, we’re excited to continue working with our partners and community on the challenges facing evaluation.
If you’d like to be part of the conversation this year you can join the Peregrine Discussion Group here or register as a member of BetterEvaluation.org for updates and more opportunities to be involved in making evaluation better for people and the planet in 2021.