Oberscherli, SwitzerlandOberscherli, Switzerland

Valuing Development Action through Evaluation

Whether or not development action is perceived as a success often has many facets. An undisputed value addition may be obvious in the case of saved lifes, immediate protection from violence or war or the provision of food and medicine after a natural disaster. Gauging development outcomes in more complex endeavours such as the change of an education system or the introduction of new agricultural value chains is pretty much more demanding and usually knows both winners and loosers. When it comes to policy reforms which imply fundamental change in the way entire sectors are organised and managed, and where "developmental change" is intricately interwoven with power structures, the yardstick to measure success must be multi-perspective.

In most cases, it is not done to compare what you find in the documentation, the monitoring system and on the ground with the theory of change and the results framework behind a programme. The art of understanding the effects of change must transcend the planned development logic. It has to go beyond institutional analysis and introspection, reaching out to the endline beneficiaries and their perception of development impact. The institutional stakeholders involved in development processes may tend to over-rate positive elements for obvious reasons of establishing sound accountability and facilitate continuity. End-line beneficiaries however often have more critical appraisals of innovation and change as these are influencing their lives and frame conditions more directly.

Evaluation is thus more than scientifically sound accounting. Capturing different value systems and mindsets behind the various feedbacks on development success and failure is important and by no means just a methodological challenge.
                                                                        Martin Sommer
                                                                        Managing Consultant devolutions Ltd.