June 2013 / Jane Carter, Gender and Social Equity Coordinator, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
In late May, Dr Rosalind Eyben of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) was invited to speak at SDC Bern on the politics of monitoring and evaluation. Noting the growing insistence of donor agencies for facts and figures demonstrating the results of development funding, she argued that this is having significant consequences (unintended or otherwise) in the shaping of development programmes and their underlying theory of change. This of course has significant implications for poverty impacts. Her talk drew from a recent conference hosted by the Big Push Forward (‘Politics of Evidence’, 23-24 April in Brighton, UK) and various papers that contributed towards it, all of which are linked to the Big Push Forward initiative. Although inspired primarily by experiences of the British development sector, her arguments are relevant for many donor governments, including Switzerland.
Risks surrounding an “evidence based” mindsetIn a financial climate of austerity, it is not surprising that emphasis is laid on efficiency and effectiveness, on value for money, and on demonstrating attribution rather than contribution. An “evidence based” mindset can of course contribute to a tightening of project goals and objectives, a clearer link between inputs and outputs – thus facilitating a cost benefit analysis, and greater overall accountability. However, Dr Eyben pointed out the following risks:
Two subsequent focus group discussions produced the following reflections
During her visit, Dr Eyben shared a range of background material, available on Big Push Forward website
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1) AcT Case Study for Politics of Evidence (2013). Accountability in Tanzania.
http://www.accountability.or.tz/2) Brendan Whitty (2013). Experiences of the Results Agenda. Draft Findings for discussion from the crowd-sourcing survey.
http://bigpushforward.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Experiences-of-the-Results-Agenda-by-Brendan-Whitty.pdf3) Rosalind Eyben (2013). Uncovering the Politics of ‘Evidence’ and ‘Results’. A framing paper for development practitioners.