I am a South African scientist and full-time international evaluator, at present based near Geneva in Switzerland. I work across the world, from local to global level, and on the intersection of evaluation, science, sustainable development and transformative development.
I care deeply about the value of evaluation for two important aspects of life. One, accelerating the transformative development of the Global South and indigenous societies worldwide, all the while fully aware of our global interdependence. Two, accelerating the transformations needed to enable humanity and Nature to be in balance and in harmony with one another, and develop within planetary boundaries.
This blog explores some of these issues in six topics; see the sidebar for the details. My posts capture my observations as I continue my work across four continents – standing sometimes in desperation, but mostly in awe at the wonder of our world, and at the challenges and opportunities before us.
Evaluation is a systematic process to determine the merit, worth, value or significance of something – which can be a project, a programme, a portfolio, a policy, an institution, a set of systems, and more. In the midst of entangled crises, challenges and opportunities, evaluative practice can take many forms for different purposes. It can be self-evaluation or independent, at certain moments or ongoing, at micro or macro scale. Good evaluation is deeply rooted in understanding dynamic trajectories, in thick and warm data (and increasingly in big data), in systems thinking, in complexity science and in transformation science.
Evaluation can be seen as a sophisticated GPS for navigating difficult terrain: It provides credible, immediate, context-sensitive direction. It lowers risk and informs decisions about the best course of action. It shows preferred as well as less appropriate options based on analysis of evidence and experience. Despite some in-built biases and occasional lack of precision, it is today essential get to desired destinations.
Today, more than ever, evaluation has to be a powerful instrument towards the world we want.