What is evaluation?

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Monitoring, evaluation and audit are three processes which are often misunderstood and commonly mixed together in one fashion or another. Monitoring and evaluation are frequently presented together and although they are two highly interlinked processes that share the same goal, monitoring and evaluation are fundamentally two different processes, which have differences in both scope and approach, as well as, with respect to who is responsible for conducting the activities involved.

 

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Audits are official and independent inspections of an organisation’s accounts and performance. A financial audit examines if the financial records of the organisation are a fair and accurate representation of the transactions they claim to represent. A performance audit is an independent assessment of an entity's operations to determine if the specific programmes or functions are working as intended to achieve the established goals.

Monitoring is an exhaustive and regular examination of the resources, outputs and results of public interventions. Monitoring is based on a system of systematic information including reports, reviews, balance sheets, indicators, etc., obtained primarily from operators. It is generally the responsibility of the actors who implement the different policy measures.     

Evaluation is the process of judging interventions according to their results, impacts and the extent to which they meet the needs they were aiming to solve. Evaluation helps to find out and understand to what extent and why the observed changes can be attributed to the policy’s interventions. For this, evaluations make use of not only monitoring data, but also, many other additional data sources which can then be analysed using different quantitative and qualitative methods to gain deeper insights into the programmes and their impacts. Evaluations can also include in-depth analyses or case studies of the situation to further understand the policy in a particular situation and context.

Evaluation is the responsibility of evaluators, who are independent from implementing bodies. Evaluations look at the effectiveness, the efficiency, the coherence and at the relevance of an intervention.

  • Relevance can be understood as the extent to which an intervention's objectives are pertinent to the needs, problems and issues. Questions of relevance are particularly important in the ex ante evaluation, because the focus is on the strategy chosen or its justification.
  • Coherence can be understood as the extent to which complementarity or synergies can be found within an intervention and in relation to other interventions.
    • External coherence is achieved when there is appropriate consideration between the objectives of an intervention and those of other interventions which interact with it.
    • Internal coherence is achieved when there is appropriate consideration between the different objectives of the same intervention. Internal coherence implies that there is a hierarchy of objectives, with those at the bottom logically contributing towards those above.           
  • Effectiveness can be understood as the extent to which objectives pursued by an intervention are achieved.
  • Efficiency can be understood as finding the best relationship between resources employed and results achieved in pursuing a given objective through an intervention. Efficiency addresses the question whether additional effects could have been obtained with the same budget or whether the same effects could have been obtained at a lower cost.