How can the development sector improve its practice around the publication and use of evaluation evidence?

Evaluating in the dark

15 December 2015

Gathering and communicating the results of international development programmes can facilitate learning and increased accountability, trust and legitimacy. But many NGOs do not think their evaluations would stand up to public scrutiny, or that they are useful.

Despite significant investment in monitoring, learning and evaluation, the 2015 Bond and NIDOS Transparency Review showed that the outputs rarely make it into the public domain. Making Evaluations Work Harder for International Development, new research commissioned by Bond, explains why.

"We know that NGOs put a lot of time, effort and resource into evaluations, and the study tried to get under the skin of why so few see the public light of day", says Clore Social Leadership fellow Michael Cooke, author of the research.

65% of NGOs in the 2015 Transparency Review published no results or evaluations on their websites at all. Only a handful of organisations like Minority Rights Group, Traidcraft Exchange and Fairtrade International systematically publish all their evaluations.

Those who do publish tend to be driven by a strong organisational commitment to openness and learning. Some organisations also see it as a route to building their reputation, helping to attract not just funders but potential staff and volunteers inspired by their work.

Encouragingly, the report found little evidence of selective publishing of positive evaluations, and little fear among interviewees of publishing evidence of failure.

"This report should be a wake-up call to the sector: we all evaluate, but we need to do much more to ensure those evaluations are good enough and are shared to enable us all to learn and make a greater impact on people’s lives," said Michael O’Donnell, Head of Effectiveness and Learning at Bond.

Bond provides a range of resources and training courses for improving monitoring and evaluation practice. Organisations can also sign up to the 2016 Transparency Review now to assess their own openness.