What we were reading in November 2022: Data Quality, Evolving Climate Policy, and Assessing Digital Infrastructure in Africa

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Best practices for working with survey partners and monitoring data quality | 3ie 

Primary data collection is usually the most time-consuming task that confronts evaluators and errors at that stage live throughout the life of the project, and frequently degrade its outputs.  As a succinct guide to building the foundations of a sound and replicable best practice, this blog is a useful refresher. Most practitioners managing a project at scale now deploy a specialised partner agency, often with niche software, and this has the unfortunate side-effects of both lulling practitioners into a false sense of security and locking them into a financially-draining arrangement that may yield little of value. The blog alludes to the importance of a sound beginning with a detailed Terms of Reference (ToR), which can ably deter inappropriate applications from survey partners and set out an explicit timeline.  Clashes between commissioners and survey partners are often rooted in misinterpretations of the initial bid. The blog also mentions the significant advances in monitoring technology have assisted survey data collection and quality checking, enabling teams to swiftly detect irregularities, administrative or software failings and poor enumerator performance. Finally, the piece makes clear the essential role of financial discipline throughout the process and the very real costs of failing that discipline.

Mainstreaming climate concerns into conflict-related evaluation work | Itad 

2022 has witnessed a marked escalation of the climate crisis and an increasing proportion of government budgets are consumed by climate mitigation and adaptation. This blog provides a useful insight into the intersection between the emergency’s immediate, obvious impacts and those that are less often remarked upon.  It argues that climate change is a “threat multiplier”, likely to unpredictably aggravate existing social malaise and push long-standing problems into acute, life-threatening, cascading crises.  There can be little doubt that systemic fragilities around the world are in a heightened state but the blog looks specifically at conflict, including organised crime.  The blog is particularly instructive in its detailed example of introducing these considerations into policy, in this case with regard to the UK Government.

Three lessons from an SDG evaluation: doing away with tunnel vision | Eval Forward 

While this blog would seem to be a merely technical account of integrating SDGs, it is likely to be of interest to all evaluation professionals as the pressure of the 2030 putative deadline for the SDGs approaches.  Practitioners will be aware of the increasing role that the SDG framework is playing in evaluation for internal reporting, inter-institutional coordination and public relations.  Belatedly, private sector buy-in and public awareness of the goals has provided a means by which to simplify the usually opaque vernacular of M&E.  While SDG 6 (“ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”) may be of limited interest outside the staff and associates of UN Water, FAO and UNCCD, this blog is a useful template for those who wish to communicate their project or institution’s work using the 2030 Agenda framework.

Digital IDs and e-payments in Africa: Consolidating what we (don’t) know (yet) 

Since the introduction of the “Aadhaar” initiative in India in 2009, which evolved into a biometric ID system for all of the country’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, international development experts have been transfixed by the possibilities of a more systematic approach enabled by this new technological frontier. In theory, a step-change in data collection should permit more effective, better targeted and more iterative work in the development space.  However, it is no secret to practitioners that this has not translated into easier monitoring and evaluation in-country as cumbersome data access frustrates small and medium size projects. In this blog, J-PAL’s Aimee Hare outlines the prospects for projects utilising a more digital landscape in Africa. Economically significant digital infrastructure is rapidly consolidating on the continent with digital payments, digital ID and digital government initiatives taking hold.  Gaps, particularly around marginalised groups, persist but the author elaborates on how these gaps can also warrant digital-first solutions. As a primer on a topic that will surely dictate more and more how M&E operates in the region and globally, this is worth a read.