Welcome to part four of Evaluation for RFAs, RFPs and RFQs. A great deal of the work performed by ISG over the last decade has focused on evaluations for donors, governments, NGOs and companies. Because this is our bread and butter, we have identified several best practices that can improve the evaluation process for everyone involved.
First, you should design your project or program with your eventual evaluation in mind. By having clearly stated objectives, with clearly stated indicators for success and a detailed process and methodology for achieving those objectives,you are already well ahead of the game. When it comes time to perform an evaluation for your project, you will be able to focus on data collection, analysis and reporting.
Second, it’s extremely important to keep in mind that no one likes to be evaluated. For most people, evaluation implies critique and causes fear or discomfort because people are worried about their jobs and careers. At the organizational level, evaluation usually correlates to fears about getting your next contract or whether or not your donor will reprimand you in some way. I’ve also found that the fear of evaluation extends all the way to the donor or client. Because after all, they were the ones who hired you to do the work. And if it turns out that the work you’re performing is ineffective, or could be improved substantially, they will be on the hook for making the wrong choice. With this understanding, as I mentioned in my discussion about reporting in the last section, it’s extremely important for you to consider ways that you can make a evaluation cool, sexy and something that everyone wants to do and participate in and is actually a process for improvement that everyone buys into.
Third, it’s my opinion that evaluations should be conducted by an independent individual, team or organization. The purpose of an evaluation is to help you or your team improve your performance, and the best way to do this is to get an honest opinion from an outside observer. If you’re having trouble identifying a qualified evaluator, I encourage you to look at one of the many high-quality evaluation bodies out there today such as ALNAP.
Fourth, because evaluation is everybody’s least favorite activity, it tends to be avoided whenever possible, and when evaluation is performed, it is usually afforded the absolute minimums of time, funding and resources. If you’re truly interested in performing at the top of your game or helping your organization to grow, I encourage you to allocate the resources necessary to ensure you receive a high-quality output from your evaluation.
Fifth, while it may seem a bit too ‘jargony’, it’s very important that you consider the entire universe of stakeholders when performing an evaluation. Whenever I have performed an evaluation, I have been impressed at the breadth and depth of individuals – beyond the client or direct beneficiaries – interested in the work I’m performing. You should make sure to engage them.
Six, as a word of caution to all the very smart people in our business, you should make sure your evaluation is thorough and high-quality, but also realistic. Depending on the time, money and resources you can allocate to the evaluation, you should refine your expectations of being able to answer your ultimate evaluation questions. I can’t tell you how many times ISG has been selected for an evaluation and then, during the inception phase, learned that our client has completely unrealistic expectations of the type of questions they want answered versus the time, money and resources they have allocated.
A final area that is important to keep in mind is research ethics. As I have mentioned in other trainings here at Aidpreneur, the work we do involves human beings, and often involves the politics of human beings. You absolutely need to make sure you are clear, among other things, on guidelines and ethics for the confidentiality of data, especially how data is stored and shared, and the ethics behind interacting with children and vulnerable people.
By ensuring that you perform an evaluation on the project you’re running, or on your individual delivery within a project, you’re making good on the commitment to continually improve the performance of your work as a humanitarian aid or development professional. Eventually, your project will come to an end and you need to be prepared to close out your project and execute your final deliverables to your client. This will be the topic of the next and final training in this series here at Aidpreneur. Thank you for watching this training on evaluation for RFAs, RFPs and RFQs. Remember, if you have any questions at all please contact us at training@Aidpreneur.com.