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‘Building bridges: Use of evaluation for decision making and policy influence’: The Evaluation Conclave 2015 in Kathmandu

DME for Peace
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At the end of 2015 I was fortunate to take part in the The Community of Evaluators' – South Asia (CoE-SA) 3rd Evaluation Conclave in Kathmandu. The Conclave, co-organized with EvalPartners and the Parliamentarians' Forum, marked the Global Evaluation Week and the culmination of the celebrations revolving around the International Year of Evaluation (EvalYear) 2015.

Kicking off the event was an encouraging and inspiring show of commitment to evaluation by the Nepali government; the Prime Minister of Nepal K P Sharma Oli gave the inaugural speech and praised evaluation as a decision making and policy development tool.

The Prime Minister’s speech helped set the theme for the 2015 Evaluation Conclave: ‘Building bridges: Use of evaluation for decision making and policy influence’. The Conclave brought together at least 350 state and non-state actors from 61 countries together on the same platform to facilitate transformative changes in policy and practice for developing countries around the world as we move into the Era of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Conclave recognized that countries are faced with the enormous problems of poverty, inequity, gender violence and conflict, and the need for sustainable development has become more critical than ever.

While historically, the drive to build evaluation skills has largely come from civil society and donors, that is changing as state and non-state actors are increasingly recognizing the need to evaluate government‐supported programs at every level so that decisions for policy and practice are made on credible and relevant evidence. The use of and strengthening of proven methods, and the uptake of innovative methods in evaluations have become increasingly important as they are required to inform strategies and policies in an increasing cross-section of sectors.

Beyond improving evaluation skills and rigor, there is second set of challenges to using evaluation to inform policy, and those challenges are around identifying factors that influence the use of evaluation by decision makers and practical approaches to enhance use of evaluations within government agencies. The question was repeatedly asked, how can we as evaluators promote collaboration between governments, grassroots organizations, and citizen movements to share lessons as well as encourage adaptive learning?

Sectors that are seeing an uptick in the use of evaluation include education, health, gender violence, water and sanitation, climate change, advocacy, governance, and peacebuilding. The Conclave focused on developing and show‐casing new methodologies. Discussions at the conclave placed emphasis on the cross cutting issues of violence, volatility, conflict and globalization along with key themes of use, participation, and equity.

The discussions around the equity and gender sensitivity of evaluation were felt to be of special importance considering the social inequality and gender disparity in the host region. This was explored by identifying the role of feminist evaluation in promoting gender sensitive and equitable evaluation and how it can be integrated in policy review and development. The Conclave concluded that policy influence takes time, new ideas need time to sink in and percolate before opinions are re-shaped in a society that has been practicing development work within a traditional framework. To learn more about ongoing work with Gender and Evaluation, see our colleagues’ excellent work over at the Gender Eval Community!

A key takeaway for how to build the bridges for evaluation to influence policy was about the importance of timing of sharing the evaluation findings, which means paying attention to the budget-making cycle and sharing results at just the right moment. It means seeing windows of receptivity to evidence on particular topics, reframing the evidence accordingly, and sharing it with decision-makers and the media. Studying and following this cycle is extremely important in effective use of evaluation in decision making and policy influence.

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Shiva Dhungana is the DM&E Asia Regional Specialist with Search for Common Ground. Shiva is a peacebuilding professional from Nepal. Shiva has more than 15 years of professional experience in the field of community development and peacebuilding and conflict transformation. He has done research on local peacebuilding efforts, community security, Nepal-India relations in the context of Maoist insurgency in Nepal, trafficking and forced migration. Similarly, he has also done research work on implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Nepal as part of the three country research project in Nepal, Kenya and India. He has published articles, journal papers, monographs and books on various issues in the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Shiva is currently doing research on "Practice of inclusive participation and representation within the broader identity formation".