What is this guide about?
This is an interactive guide for those commissioning evaluations of development research projects and programming. “Commissioners” are those who ask for an evaluation, who are responsible for making sure it happens and is well-honed to the needs of those who will use the evaluation.
It is a comprehensive guide that can be used for each step of large-scale, multi-stakeholder evaluation processes. It prompts you to consider documenting your decisions in a formal Terms of Reference (ToR) that all stakeholders can refer to. For simpler evaluations, you might skim or skip some sections of this guide. In those cases, the ToR may be less formal and it may be sufficient for you to document your decisions for yourself, your colleagues, and evaluators you decide to contract.
What is specific about evaluating research?
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada primarily funds and facilitates global South-based research for development (R4D). Its mandate is: “To initiate, encourage, support, and conduct research into the problems of the developing regions of the world and into the means for applying and adapting scientific, technical, and other knowledge to the economic and social advancement of those regions.”
Evaluating research for development (R4D) includes several unique features when compared to evaluating other international development interventions. It is also different from evaluating other areas of research. These differences are described below along with tools to evaluate R4D programming that may be relevant to the evaluation you are commissioning.
Steps in the commissioning process
Typically, commissioners define what is to be evaluated; decide who will be involved in the evaluation; what results are considered important; and, what evidence is relevant. While commissioners, generally, rely on the expertise of evaluators to make decisions about the specific methods to be used, they often set the overall parameters (i.e., overall approach, budget, time line) within which the evaluation is to take place.
Deciding to evaluate
IDRC recognizes the essential role that evaluation plays in the effective management of research projects and in producing relevant results from the research process. Its overall approach to evaluation prioritizes equally the use of rigorous methods in evaluation, and the use and adoption of evaluation findings.
Both research and evaluations supported by IDRC endeavor to comply with accepted ethical principles. In addition, the studies should also adhere to universal concepts of justice and equity while remaining sensitive to the cultural norms and practices of the localities where the work is carried out.
The guide was developed with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada by: Dr Greet Peersman and Professor Patricia Rogers[content] and Nick Herft [design] of the BetterEvaluation (BE) Project, Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), Melbourne, Australia with input from IDRC staff.
We would like to thank the content reviewers: Farid Ahmad, Head Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal & Vanessa Hood, Evaluation Lead, Strategy & Planning, Sustainability Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.