LEADER Monitoring and Evaluation
10. Evaluation Resources
Why should we think about evaluation resources now?
As formal involvement in evaluation is now a LAG obligation1 this will involve a significant proportion of LAGs in a substantially greater level of evaluation activity than previously. This will have additional resource implications for those LAGs. LAGs have not previously been formally required to conduct evaluation activities and have varying degrees of experience, knowledge and expertise. When this was investigated in LEADER Focus Group 42 it was clear that there is a considerable lack of consistency of approach, varying levels of LAG capacity and understanding and significant skills gaps.
Under the Rural Development Regulation (RDR) there is a specific requirement on the Managing Authority (MA) to provide sufficient resources and ensure appropriate capacity for the evaluation of the Rural Development Programme (RDP). The Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) insists that “Member States shall ensure that appropriate evaluation capacity is available”. The minimum requirements for the RDP Evaluation Plans specify a sub-section on evaluation topics which should include “the assessment of the contribution of Local Development Strategies (LDS), the added value of the LEADER approach and the partnership principle. It should also include planned support for evaluation at LAG level”. This necessarily involves MAs in working with LAGs. MAs should therefore refer to the EENRD Helpdesk Guidelines: Establishing and Implementing the Evaluation Plan for RDPs 2014-20203 for more detail.
The quality of monitoring and evaluation activities is ultimately directly dependent on the adequacy of the resources allocated to them. It is therefore in the interests of both LAGs and MAs to plan effectively the levels of financial, human, logistical and other resources required to ensure the quality and value of the evaluation activities undertaken.
What do we need to do first?
Given the obligations on the LAGs and MAs and the links between the two levels of evaluation involved it is clear that they need to collaborate. LAGs cannot do this completely in isolation; MAs must take account of LAG needs and capabilities. They both need to identify resource requirements and any gaps or needs in developing plans to ensure that the range of necessary resources are available.
In order for LAGs to be able to undertake their monitoring, evaluation and reporting activities effectively they will require support and capacity building from the MA or National Rural Network (NRN). Assessing and acting to ensure adequate LAG monitoring and evaluation skills and capabilities is essential to strengthen the consistency, quality and the robustness of evaluation activities and the timing of outcomes. It may be worthwhile considering and planning on shared information systems to facilitate sharing of required data within required timelines
The CPR makes explicit provision and this is clearly reinforced in the proposed minimum requirements for the RDP Evaluation Plan and the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) common guidance. The RDP Evaluation Plan should therefore clearly set out the proposed support to be made available to LAGs in these activities. Given the timeline for LAG implementation this may well be set out in rather general terms in RDPs and further work with LAGs is desirable to refine this.
The priority here is therefore planning, planning to ensure that the evaluation resources which will be required are in place as and when required. At LAG level this planning should take account of the support which may be available from the MA and NRN4.
What types of resources do LAGs need to plan for?
In planning for evaluation resources we need to consider all parts of the process, in particular the overall timeline and the data and information requirements. Resourcing requirements to consider include human resources (skills and administrative capacity), data resources (see data and information module) and financial resources. In some cases it may also be necessary to consider any specific IT needs. Allowance also needs to be made for the resourcing of any capacity building activities foreseen.
Planning can cover both self-evaluation and any external providers; there may be a decision to be made here on the balance between the respective costs and capabilities.
Here the LAG needs to plan for the financial costs of implementing the proposed programme of monitoring and evaluation activities. Specific elements which need to be covered include:
- The costs of any evaluation contracts, evaluation studies, topic related analysis, case studies etc.
- The costs of any self-evaluation activities, materials, facilities, communications, support, expenses, facilitation etc.
- Any costs associated with data collection and management including any data purchase or specific IT provision.
- The costs incurred in any monitoring and evaluation capacity building for staff and / or LAG members.
- Any dissemination costs e.g. an event or publication.
- Any allowance to cover any emerging evaluation and data needs?
LAGs should also consider the sources of resources, what other national or regional funds could contribute to the monitoring and evaluation budget, what support does the MA propose etc? Consideration should also be given to what other sources of support, financial, human, skills, etc. may be available from within the LAG or the territory.
In mapping the human resources and skills required and available LAGs can conduct a gap analysis to identify the capacity building needed. LEADER Focus Group 4 is of particular relevance here regarding the skill and knowledge deficits and the various forms of support required and available.
If evaluation is to be mainly conducted by external evaluators then the key considerations for LAG skills and knowledge relate to managing that process. There also needs to be sufficient competent staff available to support the evaluation needs and to take account of any peaks in workload this may cause. This consideration applies to all the tasks in the LAG evaluation plan.
In planning capacity building activities in relation to monitoring and evaluation management and support (for both self-evaluation and external evaluation) LAGs need to identify the needs across the proposed programme of activity. In particular they need to consider what are the lessons learned from previous experience, what are the training needs and how are these to be addressed? The identification of sources of support is important; this may include provision through the NRN or from the MA. LAGs could also consider collaborating to identify and address common needs. This may take the form of training events, guidance and support materials, mentoring and other forms of exchange or knowledge transfer.
1 Regulation (EU) 1303/2013 Art 34.3 (g) [PDF ]
2 ENRD website, LEADER Analyses
3 Helpdesk of the European Evaluation Networks for Rural Development, Our publications
4 MAs and NRNs should refer to evaluation planning guidance here.