BetterEvaluation's approach to capacity strengthening
We believe it is important to take a principles-based and systems approach to capacity strengthening.
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.
This information has been adapted from BetterEvaluation's approach to capacity strengthening. We are no longer undertaking discrete capacity strengthening projects.
Our principles for evaluation capacity strengthening
BetterEvaluation’s evaluation capacity strengthening approach takes an 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 BetterEvaluation's full principles
Ways of working
Type of engagement
Ideally, engagement with individuals, groups or organisations is long(er)-term, which allows for different types of capacity-strengthening support in an integrated manner to address issues in evaluation supply, demand and the enabling environment and evaluative culture. One-off training may not necessarily be the most appropriate way to address a capacity-strengthening need.
When organisations have identified a specific need as part of their organisational capacity-strengthening approach/plan, shorter-term activities may be appropriate.
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:
What evaluation capacity involves
In the follow section, we clarify a principles-based approach to working by contrasting it with approaches that take a narrower view of evaluation capacity:
What does evaluation refer to?
Only discrete evaluations, especially those conducted mid-term and at the end
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?
- Only conduct an evaluation
- Only technical tasks in data collection and analysis
- Plan, conduct, commission or use an evaluation or evaluative inquiry processes as part of a MERL system
- Full range of tasks including interpersonal communication and group facilitation for framing evaluation, sense making and supporting use
Only those designated as evaluators
Those who do evaluations as part of their work, manage evaluations, or use evaluative inquiry, including program managers and implementers
What kinds of capacity?
Only human capital — knowledge and skills to apply specific methods and processes
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
Compliance with standards by copying existing examples
Compliance with standards by adapting examples of good practice to particular situations
What evaluation capacity-strengthening involves
A principles-based 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?
Only sponsors and presenters identify needs, design and develop curriculum and lead delivery
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?
Only focus only on what is new capacity
Also include identifying existing capacity and explicitly draw and build on it
Who does the learning?
Students only learn from trainers or presenters
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?
An assumption that the trainer can anticipate learners’ needs or deficit-based needs analysis
Formal processes of situation analysis or diagnostic including identifying individual and collective strengths to draw from and build on
What are the methods for capacity strengthening?
Only formal courses, especially face to face slide presentations
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?
Linear process where experts build knowledge and then teach others
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)