What did we read in February: Evaluating the UN response to COVID-19, Connecting Evaluation and Policy, Universal Basic Income and Behavioural Change

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Inception Report: System-Wide Evaluation of the UNDS Response to COVID-19 | UNSDG 

As the world dares to hope that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, there is a limited appetite to re-live its horrors through a thorough accounting of institutional responses. However, as this new and vitally important report makes clear, the continuing ramifications of COVID-19 make such an assessment unavoidable.  Evaluation on the scale required to make any contextualised judgement on pandemic response is a daunting task, with many in the profession anticipating tradeoffs that could fatally undermine the credibility of any such reporting. The likelihood that any conclusions rapidly become politically incendiary further complicates the task of the evaluator. This report represents one of the earliest and most comprehensive attempts to begin to overcome these limitations and meet the challenge with the resources and scope required. This is an inception report and as such it certainly does not and cannot capture every intricacy of pandemic responses in the UN System. It does, however, sketch a conceptual framework, including a Theory of Change, which may well become a touchstone for evaluators seeking to meaningfully discuss the pandemic and UN System responses. In addition, the report provides some invaluable context: the pandemic has of course derailed the consolidation and expansion of SDG-linked activities that many had hoped the 2020s would herald, and the report captures new reality that SDG metrics must now accommodate.

Adapting evaluations to the needs of decision-makers: the case of Benin | Eval Forward

Building on similar reflections last month also published in EvalForward, this article argues that the typical reliance of institutional M&E on external evaluators has often weakened those institutions, eroded their local legitimacy and reduced opportunities.  Although readers might be reluctant to share the author’s scepticism of independent evaluation, he makes a compelling case that the rigour of the profession has long-term costs that are too often ignored or are beyond the scope of any particular project.   In making his case for the capabilities of internal teams, the author argues for their particular strength in executing rapid assessments, which are increasingly needed in dynamic settings. The public policy demand for such up-to-date assessments is such that there is a real opportunity for a more established M&E position, provided it can be embedded locally.

Preparing for shocks through Universal Basic Income: Evidence from Kenya | The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

Few specific policies have exercised the imagination of economists more than Universal Basic Income (UBI). Such debates have arguably intensified since the pandemic-linked recession, unemployment and other economic turmoil. As well as providing a substantial review of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and the current state of academic dialogue on the issue, this article recaps a 2017 randomised controlled trial (RCT) conducted in Kenya. Even for those uninterested in the matter, this reads as an excellent case study in executing RCTs on a challenging scale.

How Does Nutritional Behaviour Change Happen? A Tool to Help You Apply the Lessons | Independent Evaluation Group

Measuring behavioural change has become a central preoccupation of evaluators but an accepted standard framework has proven elusive.  Although this article is unlikely to end that search, it describes a new mapping tool for planning, targeting, and measuring incremental behavioural changes.  Specifically concerned with nutrition, the methodology goes some way to propagating an understandable yet rigorous tool for the profession at large.  There may be scope for generalising beyond its immediate subject matter as the authors suggest. Even if not, this represents a welcome utilisation of the IEG’s rich history of behavioural studies, which will surely be an integral part of any more widely accepted, evidence-based framework.

Video: Introducing Itad’s Research Analyst programme | Itad

Evaluation has never been more in demand institutionally but provisions for evaluator training, mentorship and career development continue to lag behind demand.  Itad’s Research Analyst programme seeks to change that this blog and accompanying video describe the experience of the programme’s beneficiaries. This will be of interest to both emerging and established evaluators as the attempted cultivation of M&E belatedly gathers pace.