So I have been hearing a lot about how evaluation is or should be part of an organisation’s work.
Er, no. Monitoring is part of an organisation’s work; and a very important part too. It is crucial that an NGO knows how to monitor its work, use beneficiary feedback loops to improve projects and services and track performance; not only for its own strategic needs, but also for reporting to donors, supporters and the public. Monitoring is a basic management activity and is central to both project and organisational management, and should remain so.
Evaluation on the other hand has a different function. I have previously talked about the differences between monitoring and evaluation so I won’t repeat myself here. The key point I want to make today is that evaluation is best used when it sits outside the organisation. A bit like the relationship between the finance team inside the organisation and the auditors outside the organisation. This impartiality is crucial for ensuring that NGOs get that external verification (or not) of the work that they are doing. Without it, NGOs are opening themselves up to significant criticism that evaluations are simply tick box exercises used to ensure future funding from donors. Where this does happen (and it does) this serves no good for no one.
At its most basic, evaluation is when an external person checks that an organisation has done what it said it would do, what impact its activities have had, and what could be done differently next time. This simple statement covers a multitude of different evaluation approaches and degrees of complexity, but is largely correct for every kind of evaluation in international development and indeed nonprofit work anywhere.
What do you think about the different roles of monitors and evaluators? Has your organisation tried to bring evaluation in-house and how did that work?