Bringing environmental sustainability concerns into evaluations: The Footprint Evaluation project

The Footprint Evaluation project is a co-creation and research project hosted by BetterEvaluation and supported by the Global Evaluation Initiative. It is grounded in the premise that all evaluations should include consideration of environmental sustainability, even when this is not a stated goal of the intervention. This is so that decision-making can take into account the potential and actual impacts of planned interventions (projects, programs, policies) on the environment. 

Learning how to evaluate the potential or actual footprint of an intervention

The Footprint Evaluation project has three main learning questions:

  1. How can an evaluation effectively address natural systems/environmental sustainability?

  2. What hinders or helps this? What are particular challenges and opportunities?

  3. What is needed so all evaluations adequately address environmental sustainability? What are systemic approaches to overcoming hindering factors and amplifying helping factors?

Collaborating to create knowledge

The Footprint Evaluation project uses a co-creation approach for building and sharing knowledge about better evaluation practice.  Instead of simply building knowledge (or producing a guide) and then training people to follow the procedures, the Footprint Evaluation project involves working with and reflecting on innovative practice with individuals and organisations, as well as supporting peer learning for adaptation and translation to new settings. There are two main channels for this co-creation:

Thought Partner Panel

The Footprint Evaluation Thought Partner Panel is a small, invited group of individuals who are providing advice and feedback to the Footprint Core Team on the issues and challenges to be considered, useful resources and events to curate, and how to shape the knowledge products from the project. 

The Footprint Evaluation Thought Partner Panel are a team of experts from a range of disciplines, helping to analyze Footprint Evaluation case studies, develop tools, and gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges at play.

The panel includes:

  • Katherine Dawes* (Evaluation Officer (Acting) at US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA))
  • Weronika Felcis (Research Assistant at University of Latvia)

  • Alain Frechette (Director of Strategic Analysis and Global Engagement at RRI)

  • Mine Pabari (Managing Partner, Athari Advisory Services, Visiting Research Fellow, CLEAR Anglophone Africa, Faculty of Commerce, Law & Management, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa & Natural Resource Management)

  • Elliot Stern (Emeritus Professor of Evaluation Research, Lancaster University UK
    Editor Evaluation – international journal of theory, research and practice),

  • Juha Uitto (Director, Independent Evaluation Office at Global Environment Facility)

  • Helen Watts (Strategy and Planning Services General Manager at Corangamite Catchment Management Authority)

*The views expressed in this document are solely those of Katherine Dawes and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Footprint Evaluation Community

The wider Footprint Evaluation Community will be made up of invited and self-selected Footprint enthusiasts from the wider evaluation, natural sciences and sustainability communities who are interested in learning from and contributing to the Footprint project. The Footprint Community will receive a Footprint Newsletter, receive access to a private discussion group, and be encouraged to share and amplify the Footprint Evaluation learnings in their wider communities.  The Footprint Community will be informed of new developments in the Footprint Evaluation Project and invited to share their thoughts, experiences, additional resources. 

Activities and outputs

Case studies and retrospective 'thought experiments'

These retrospective 'thought experiments' probe what might have been done in a number of completed evaluations, and case studies of concurrent evaluations where an experienced evaluator participant observer will document what is done by the evaluation innovator who is adding the environmental sustainability lens to the evaluation.

Mapping methods, processes and resources for Footprint Evaluations

One of the challenges to incorporating a 'footprint evaluation' into everyday evaluations is the lack of cohesive guidance on how to do this well. As part of this project, appropriate methods and processes for doing footprint evaluations will be mapped to the various tasks in the BetterEvaluation Rainbow Framework via the Footprint Evaluation thematic page.

Visit the
Footprint Evaluation thematic page

Where Footprint Evaluation sits in the evaluation ecosystem

Other relevant approaches and interventions

Footprint evaluation complements other cross-cutting initiatives in evaluation which address related issues – including Blue Marble Evaluation, which focuses on evaluating global systems change initiatives, and Transforming Evaluation, which looks at a range of ways evaluation needs to be transformed to support the transformations needed to reach SDGs.  

Footprint evaluation can also leverage and connect with other work being done in the environmental evaluation space, such as the Environmental Social Governance indicators in impact investing.

Want to join the Footprint Community?

Join us in making environmental sustainability a consideration in all evaluations.

Get involved


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