What we’re reading in June

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The road ahead: Evaluators must promote learning for adaptive development processes https://www.evalforward.org/blog/road-ahead-evaluators 

This useful piece from FAO’s Director of Evaluation Masahiro Igarashi captures much of the evolution in the role of the evaluator, including in the time of COVID-19. The article contextualises the global health crisis in the trend towards data-driven evaluation and the conceptual framework of systems thinking, which continues to prove its relevance. The piece identifies the synergies and trade-offs that form the cornerstone of that framework in approaching complexity, planning interventions and evaluating them. Real-time evaluation, which features more and more prominently in this age of especially time-pressurised policy decisions, also receives a mention.  This blog, among other barometers of professional evaluation, has paid special attention to the growing necessity of organizational learning; the blog is based on a presentation Masahiro Igarashi delivered at the Commonwealth Secretariat Learning Week and it duly notes the essential role of a learning culture in developing evaluators’ skills to meet the obstacles and opportunities of the world in which they operate.


Putting gender, intersectionality and social justice at the centre of transformative responses to climate change


Authored by the IIED’s Climate Change leads Tracy Kajumba and Clare Shakya, this piece delves into the crucially important intersectionality of environmental work, social justice and gender.  As the blog makes clear, such a framework cannot be undertaken lightly and requires conscious effort over an extended period of time, across the work of an organisation, if any real sense of intersectional analysis is to take hold.  At a conceptual level, it requires a more sophisticated appreciation of power dynamics, and the assumptions about power implicit in much of the methodology that M&E practitioners routinely and too-often uncritically employ – the ‘household’ as a unit of calculation is taken as an example of this.  The blog also provides a passage on the communicating of evidence: finding legitimacy and acceptance in a broad range of audiences.  This is something that will surely play a greater part in the future of evaluation as practitioners are increasingly cognizant of how studies designed to be inclusive communicate their results in a way that remains opaque and exclusionary. 


Four Lessons from the Sahel on Land Restoration Programs and their Impact on Vulnerable Populations


The African Union-led Great Green Wall, one of the most ambitious initiatives to combat desertification anywhere in the world, has long attracted international interest and occasional dismay at the pace of delivery.  This blog provides a succinct set of insight into the World Bank IEG’s assessment of their support for the Great Green Wall.  These include: broad success in land restoration efforts but limited monitoring capacity has hampered verification of that achievement; the often-overlooked trade-off between restoration of degraded land and harm to vulnerable populations, including by attracting predatory outside interest; and, unequal benefits to land restoration.


Training gender practitioners in South Asia in strategies to measure gender outcomes https://www.povertyactionlab.org/blog/6-16-21/training-gender-practitioners-south-asia-strategies-measure-gender-outcomes 

Behind its somewhat unassuming title, this blog offers something quite novel and much-needed: an attempt to measure gender norms, at a level of precision that is actually usable in professional evaluation.  The blof recounts a workshop the Poverty Action Lab hosted for M&E professionals in NGOs, using collaboration and case-studies to analyse socially-embedded and often nebulous concepts in a more concrete way. Typically of J-PAL, uncompromising methodology is underpinned by its practical application and the blog references the institute’s experience of gender-based interventions in South Asia, as it intersects with education and youth.


Growing the research agenda on women’s work


On a similar theme, JPAL’s Mikaela Rabb provides a useful primer on the projects undertaken by the organisation and its partners to expand, protect and assess the place of women in the workplace.  The piece makes a point of scrutinising “success stories” for women’s economic equality and departs from the conventional narrative with a more country-specific focus on unique challenges.