Why work in evaluation

Evaluation is about driving positive change and fostering continuous improvement, critical thinking, learning, and transparency. It helps organizations, communities, and governments learn from their experiences, innovate, and make evidence-based decisions that lead to better results. By working in evaluation, you can contribute to this process and help advance social development, environmental sustainability, and public policy.

Evaluation offers a rewarding career path. You can apply your existing skills in meaningful ways and build new ones. Whether you come from education, health care, business, or social sciences, your background and experience can enrich the evaluation process. This diversity not only broadens the scope of evaluation but also enhances its relevance and effectiveness.

What do we mean by evaluation?

The term “evaluation” is used in many ways, but BetterEvaluation defines evaluation as any systematic process to judge merit, worth, or significance by combining evidence and values. This includes reviews, assessments, impact analyses, appreciative inquiry, and cost-benefit assessments. Our definition encompasses discrete evaluations, ongoing monitoring activities, as well as integrated monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems.

Evaluations can be formative—helping to refine the design or implementation of a project by identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement—or summative—assessing the overall effectiveness of a completed project.

Depending on their purpose, evaluations can be conducted before, during, or after a project and can involve a variety of actors to do the work, including external contractors, internal staff, communities, and hybrid teams.

A range of evaluation methods, approaches, and themes have been developed to address specific evaluation questions or challenges. BetterEvaluation serves as a repository so you can explore the many options and design evaluations fit for purpose and mindful of issues related to specific sectors, demographics, or projects under review.

Evaluation can make a difference

As someone entering the field of evaluation, you can make a significant impact on efforts to improve people’s lives. Evaluation is not just about data and reports; it is about understanding what works, when and why it works, and how it can be better. Many myths and misconceptions about evaluation exist, but when done well and used well, evaluation is a powerful tool for enhancing decision-making, advocating for change, promoting equity, improving transparency, and fostering sustainable development.

Help navigate a rapidly changing world

Complex and compounding global challenges underscore the importance of timely and credible evidence to guide policies and responses. People working in the evaluation field play a crucial role in providing this evidence, helping to shape effective strategies that can mitigate the impacts of crises and keep the world on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As geopolitical tensions rise and inequalities deepen, evaluators help ensure that interventions are inclusive and equitable and address the needs of all populations, especially the most vulnerable. The Turin Agenda underscores these principles.

Promote gender equity and social inclusion

Evaluation helps uncover and address gender disparities and social inequalities. By focusing on these issues and advocating for the inclusive participation of people from marginalized groups in evaluations and decision-making processes, evaluation professionals can help drive positive change and ensure everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities. It is also possible to deconstruct power structures within evaluation practice, such as through participatory, empowerment, culturally responsive, and human rights-based evaluations.

Help protect the environment  

Climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, ocean warming and acidification, and deforestation threaten our world. To tackle these crises, decision-making must be informed by evaluations that explore the actual and  likely environmental consequences of all programs, projects, policies, and strategies across all sectors. People working in evaluation have a key role to play in both advocating for and generating this evidence. Footprint evaluation aims to embed consideration of environmental sustainability in all evaluations and monitoring systems, not only those with explicit environmental objectives.

Support innovation and better practices

The rapidly changing world demands innovative, adaptable, and culturally appropriate evaluation practices. As an evaluation professional, you have the chance to adapt existing methods and develop new approaches that can provide rapid, reliable, and responsive information to guide decision-making in the face of complex challenges.

 “This is an exciting time for evaluation! Together… we can craft streams of action that may just become a flood of collective power that will help ensure that evaluation becomes the best it can be for this time.”

Zenda Ofir, former President of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) and well-known for work on transformative evaluation.

Is a career in evaluation right for me?

There is a growing demand for evaluation across many fields and a recognition that, without monitoring and evaluation, accountability, learning, and evidence-based decision-making are in jeopardy. Evaluation needs critical thinkers who are driven to understand how things work and how they can be improved. Evaluative thinking is at the core of evaluation—you may already be an evaluator.

Whether you are just starting out or transitioning from a different domain, evaluation offers many exciting opportunities to use your skills, learn, and do meaningful work. But you do not have to take our word for it. These seasoned evaluators explain how they discovered evaluation and what they value most about it.

Global Evaluation Initiative

A collection of videos meant to inspire young evaluators on the path towards becoming drivers of transformative change, featuring Ana Maria Linares (Inter-American Development Bank), Sarah Klier (DEval), and Candice Morkel (CLEAR-AA).

This content section is currently under development and has been released in beta mode. We welcome any feedback or suggestions for additional resources and examples - please get in touch via the contact form!