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:

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 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? 

Narrow perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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
  • Only technical tasks in data collection and analysis

Principles-based perspective

  • 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

Whose capacity?

Narrow perspective

Only those designated as evaluators

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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?

Narrow perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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?

Narrow perspective

Only formal courses, especially face to face slide presentations

Principles-based perspective

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

Principles-based perspective

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)


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