BetterEvaluation's approach to capacity strengthening

BetterEvaluation takes a principles-based and systems approach to capacity strengthening. 

We have an outstanding track record in strengthening evaluation capacity and creating a credible and widely-used knowledge platform. ​

We believe in taking the time to understand the existing strengths and needs at an individual and organisational level, and using this to determine what can be built on, how best to address important gaps over time, and what to prioritise first.

We partner with organisations seeking to improve the evaluation capacity and capability of their own organisation and/or their grantees and partners.

Jump to:

Our principles for evaluation capacity strengthening

BetterEvaluation’s evaluation capacity strengthening approach takes a evaluation systems perspective and is based on the following principles:

BetterEvaluation's principles for evaluation capacity strengthening

  • Start from local needs and priorities and design learning around these
  • Respect local culture. Learn about, respect and work appropriately within the local culture
  • Identify and build on existing knowledge and strengths. Identify and build on local knowledge and existing strengths
  • Design for learning over time so that learners are supported over time, rather than one-off events
  • Support application and adaption of new knowledge to people’s own context and document emerging learnings
  • Establish true partnerships for mutual learning
View full principles

How we work

Type of engagement

Ideally, our engagement with individuals, groups or organisations is long(er)-term which allows for providing different types of capacity-strengthening support in an integrated manner to address issues in evaluation supply, demand and the enabling environment and evaluative culture. You can view some of the options for this on our Strengthen Evaluation Capacity task page. One-off training may not necessarily be the most appropriate way to address a capacity-strengthening need.

We also engage in shorter-term activities with organisations that have identified a specific need as part of their organisational capacity-strengthening approach/plan. For example, we are developing and delivering short online courses for country staff as part of UNICEF’s Evaluation Capacity-strengthening Programme that addresses, among other things, evaluation careers paths as well as individual competencies for conducting, managing and using evaluations within the organisation and with partners in country.

Understanding strengths and needs

Understanding existing strengths and needs at individual and organisational levels, such as through conducting a collaborative evaluation diagnostic, is a good starting point to determine what can be built on, how best to address important gaps over time and what to prioritise first. As an example, you can view this brief diagnostic rubric:

View PDF of Brief Diagnostic Rubric (51.13 KB)​

Source: Compiled by Greet Peersman based on ‘UNAIDS Organizing Framework for a Functional National HIV Monitoring and Evaluation System, 2008’.

Our approach

What evaluation capacity involves

In the below table, we clarify our ways-of-working by contrasting it to approaches that take a narrower view of evaluation capacity:

What does evaluation refer to?
Narrow perspective

Only discrete evaluations, especially those conducted mid-term and at the end


Perspective underpinning our work

All evaluative thinking and inquiry from needs analysis/ situation analysis, through synthesis of relevant evidence to inform a business case, monitoring and discrete evaluations, learning and adaptation

Capacity to do what?
Narrow perspective

Only conduct an evaluation

Perspective underpinning our work

Plan, conduct, commission or use an evaluation or evaluative inquiry processes as part of a MERL system

Only technical tasks in data collection and analysis
Full range of tasks including interpersonal communication and group facilitation for framing evaluation, sense making and supporting use
Whose capacity?
Narrow perspective

Only those designated as evaluators

Perspective underpinning our work

Those who do evaluations as part of their work, manage evaluations, or use evaluative inquiry, including program managers and implementers

What kinds of capacity?
Narrow perspective

Only human capital — knowledge and skills to apply specific methods and processes

Perspective underpinning our work

Human capital — Ability to actually apply knowledge and skills in contextually appropriate ways (including attention to the enabling environment)

Social capital — Supportive networks of trust and reciprocity to support work

Organisational capital — Including infrastructure and organisational culture

Ensuring quality evaluation
Narrow perspective 

Compliance with standards by copying existing examples

Perspective underpinning our work

Compliance with standards by adapting examples of good practice to particular situations


What evaluation capacity-strengthening involves

Our approach to capacity-strengthening takes a broader view than many others. Our approach is directly linked to our principles and is outlined in the table below.

Who leads the capacity strengthening?
Narrow perspective

Only sponsors and presenters identify needs, design and develop curriculum and lead delivery

Perspective underpinning our work

Local ownership of process and engagement in all stages of design and delivery, collaboration with sponsors and all involved in the learning process, and capacity to engage target populations in a participatory and meaningful way

What is the focus of the capacity strengthening?
Narrow perspective

Only focus only on what is new capacity

Perspective underpinning our work

Also include identifying existing capacity and explicitly draw and build on it

Who does the learning?
Narrow perspective

Students only learn from trainers or presenters

Perspective underpinning our work

Support mutual learning and peer learning. Formally and informally seek opportunities for learners to share their knowledge and experience and make this available to others

How are participant needs identified?
Narrow perspective

An assumption that the trainer can anticipate learners’ needs or deficit-based needs analysis

Perspective underpinning our work

Formal processes of situation analysis or diagnostic including identifying individual and collective strengths to draw from and build on

What are the options for capacity strengthening?
Narrow perspective

Only formal courses, especially face to face slide presentations

Perspective underpinning our work

Full range of professional learning processes, including: blended learning (combining virtual and face-to-face); self-directed learning; coaching and mentoring, especially ongoing support to scaffold application of new skills and knowledge to practice

What is the process for capacity strengthening?
Narrow perspective

Linear process where experts build knowledge and then teach others

Perspective underpinning our work

Capacity strengthening is seen as part of an integrated process to improve evaluative practice along with research and innovation (to document good practice, try new processes and methods and learn from practice, especially how to adapt methods and processes to specific contexts) and toolboxes (which provide information to help people  choose and use processes and methods)