An evaluation looks at the purpose, outcomes and impact of the project and poses questions like:

  • Was it a good idea to do this project in the first place and does it address the problems of the people (is the project relevant?)
  • Did the project change anything in the long run? What is its impact? What are the positive and the negative impacts?
  • Are the achievements durable/sustainable? Do the positive outcomes persist when the project/assistance is finished? Are the partners or beneficiaries capable of maintaining the working costs and periodic investments costs that come with the new structures/organisations/infrastructures (financial sustainability)? Is ecological sustainability guaranteed?

Evaluations can be done by the partner organisations involved in the project (internal evaluation), or by someone external to the project, like a consultant. Sometimes donors won’t accept the findings of internal evaluations because they may not be objective (the partners may have an interest in pretending the outcome and impact of the project is better than it is in reality).

In order for an evaluator to be able to do his or her work, he/she needs to have access to information produced by the monitoring system over the course of the project. At the very least, the evaluator has to be able to compare the situation of the beneficiaries before any activities took place (the baseline), with the situation at the end.

In principle, the purpose of an evaluation is to learn, and to be able to adapt and guide projects that are still being executed, or to take into account what’s been learned when you design new projects. Evaluations also serve to control whether the project is going to achieve or has achieved its purpose. However, very often evaluations are only used to control and not so much to learn. 

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