Often the commissioning organisation becomes surprised, asking “is this the report that we expected?” This happens when the expectations of the commissioners do not match with the analysis of the evaluation report. One reason could be that the organisation itself might not have been clear about what they wanted from the beginning, or it was not properly articulated in the ToR. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the evaluator to level the expectations on the utility and necessity of the evaluation from the very beginning. The inception report should be endorsed with mutual understanding between the commissioner and the evaluator.
Conflicts of interest
The evaluator should uphold the principles of independence, impartiality, credibility, integrity and accountability in all aspects of the work. This requires a high level of genuine commitment to avoid conflicts of interest. It should be considered that an assessment of only a few days cannot necessarily reflect the whole project's (non-)achievements. Implementation is a process and given the evaluator cannot see everything, there will always be blind spots that might be missed. Thus, the interpretation of each finding should be constructive, with sufficient evidence, and the evaluator should act insightfully and with an open mind.
Interactions with participants
Many evaluators find it challenging to obtain useful data from the participants. Sometimes participants want to portray a beautiful picture about the project and its impacts. Identifying and engaging the most suitable stakeholders is key to gathering proper information. Respecting participants’ confidentiality, anonymity, dignity, diversity, human rights, gender equality, and doing no harm should be among the prime concerns. Prior information about the contexts and culture could make things clearer and more appropriate while choosing and developing data collection methods and tools.
Evaluation processes and products
Evaluators have to take efforts throughout the evaluation process to ensure accuracy and reliability, inclusion and non-discrimination. Although evaluation – especially the qualitative part – is a subjective assessment and coming up with conclusions without biasness is a challenge, evaluators must maintain transparency with all findings through triangulation of their sources. Finally, the evaluator should produce a balanced report that levels the expectations of the commissioner and achieves the objectives of the evaluation.
Discovery of wrongdoing
In the course of an evaluation, evaluators experience different perspectives of projects and perceptions of the participants, and naturally not all of these experiences are always pleasant. For instance, some sensitive issues brought up by a participant cannot be reported as the participant might face adverse consequences. However, the evaluator is ethically responsible to be delicate and discreet in reporting such issues.
By Dr Mubina Tabassum, Trainer & Consultant at MDF Training & Consultancy. Views expressed here are my own.