Evaluation of African Development

Decades of development aid in Africa have shown that many external interventions do not produce development. Donors and African countries recognising this and agreed on a reform agenda to improve aid effectiveness, embodied in the Paris Declaration of 2005 [OE05]. The declaration considers evaluation a key area for reform to improve aid effectiveness as it produces knowledge and allows actors to improve their intervention (“learning”), while also helping to justify the spending of aid (“accountability”).

The reform agenda promotes important ideas such as sector-wide approaches and “recipient” ownership of development processes. This translates into donors moving towards budget support, with control of resources moving to the recipient country, and into country-led evaluations which make countries responsible for monitoring progress against key dimensions of their development strategies.

The agenda has led to some progress in the evaluation field, with joint evaluations for instance, but key challenges such as establishing country-led systems [WB03,WB05,WB07] which satisfy donors’ requirements remain. The progress has been slow [OE08], hindered by the absence of a theoretical framework and prior experience [HoIn08].

The challenges in reforming evaluation models extend, however, to beyond the agenda set by the PD. Most importantly, there is the need for an important perspective shift in evaluation for it to better contribute to aid effectiveness [SH08, EC07]. The shift requires evaluation, and research on evaluation, to focus on the development processes of societies rather than on the interventions and their impacts. Evaluation should be society-driven and society-centred, as opposed to donor-driven.

The main aim of this research is to rethink current evaluation approaches, systems and practices and to develop an integrated approach for societal evaluation which can effectively guide interventions towards change in societies.

Our approach is a shift from the traditionally donor-led evaluation to a society-driven approach. Most evaluations follow the intervention and are conducted at project or sector/programme level. This reduces the complexity but excludes “societies” from the picture by reducing it to segmented groups such as target groups, civil society organizations, etc. This research proposes to observe the dynamics of the society as a whole, including social and economic dimensions and internal and external drivers of change.

The research aims at developing evaluation systems to understand the change interventions are producing on a country, by looking at all the interventions and actors in a given territory and assessing the cumulative diachronic and synchronic impacts of multiple interventions on the dynamics of the society. Based on that analysis, a territory or country specific integrated evaluation system may be designed.

Finally, this research reflects on the issue of accountability and how it affects evaluation. As it stands, accountability of donors to their own constituency, to citizens in donor countries, accountability of government to voters, of implementing agencies tofunding agencies shapes current evaluations systems. In integrated evaluation systems where changes in society are observed, the recipient society, as the main stakeholder in the development process becomes the main “evaluation stakeholder”. This change in perspective should improve the way the “target” society learns about the changes external interventions are producing and how to lead with them.

This research will rethink planning and evaluation systems and practice by asking: (1) what are the strengths and weaknesses of existing models, looking in particular at the new approaches arising from the reform agenda (2) How can integrated evaluation systems be developed and implemented in a specific territory?
The research plan is organized in four phases: development of the theoretical and methodological framework, analysis of case studies, data analysis and dissemination.

Theoretical, methodological, inadequacy of practices and structural factors will be studied in different approaches: Direct Budget Support in Mozambique (Joint Evaluation), sector-wide approach in Cape Verde, (territorial models) and project approach in Guinea-Bissau, a “fragile state” and “donor orphan” (evaluation under adverse conditions).
An international, multidisciplinary team, based on previous experiences, structured analysis and discussions will develop proposals for a new integrated framework for development evaluation which will be completed by the analysis of the information from the case-studies.

The research will produce a theoretical and methodological framework for integrated evaluation of societal development and a toolkit for integrated planning and evaluation, presented on an interactive website.

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