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DFID/International Development Research Centre/Thomas Omondi

Chapter 18.5 Monitoring and evaluation

Assessment teams

Photo: DFID/International Development Research Centre/Thomas Omondi

Participation and accountability are significant factors to bear in mind when forming assessment teams. The balance between internal and external assessors is an important consideration. Evaluations may be carried out by external specialists, local staff or local people, working separately or in mixed teams. Both internal and external evaluations aim to learn lessons, but external evaluations, which provide a more detached, objective perspective, also make an important contribution to accountability. There are no fixed rules: the appropriate size and mix of evaluation team depends on the specific project. However, all teams should have the appropriate technical skills, gender balance and local participation.

Involvement of a range of people makes it more likely that an evaluation’s lessons will be shared and its findings acted upon. Unfortunately, external specialists – mostly men – often dominate teams evaluating DRR and humanitarian aid initiatives, and it is still common to have projects evaluated by a single external consultant. Whilst it is useful to have the added objectivity of an outsider’s view and the experience of a well-travelled evaluator, there is a danger that somebody new to the project will not understand all its complexities. This danger is accentuated by the limited time usually allocated to evaluators.

The purpose of the evaluation offers some guidance on the balance of the evaluation team. If the main purpose is lesson learning, it makes sense to involve more internal staff; if it is accountability, the independence of external evaluators becomes more important. In practice, however, most evaluations aim at lesson learning and accountability. There is a lot of discussion in the literature about the appropriate skills mix in evaluation teams. Again, there are no fixed rules about this. Some people feel that a wide range of technical skills is essential; others maintain that experience in evaluation methods is more important. In some kinds of DRR project technical expertise may be valuable, be it in science, engineering, architecture, nutrition, economics or the social sciences. Evaluators need to be able to use relevant data types (e.g. quantitative or qualitative) and collection methods. Knowledge of local geography, society, cultures and institutions is also important.