Evaluation: A definition

Evaluation assesses the extent to which the intervention made a difference / impact in relation to what it aimed to achieve. It looks at whether an intervention met its targets, examines the effectiveness of the approach or strategy used, looks at how the intervention was done, and whether there was efficient use of resources (time, people, funding; is it sustainable etc.).

Evaluation is the comparison of actual project impacts against the agreed strategic plans.  It looks at what you set out to do, at what you have accomplished, and how you accomplished it.  It can be formative (taking place during the life of a project or organisation, with the intention of improving the strategy or way of functioning of the project or organisation).  It can also be summative (drawing learnings from a completed project or an organisation that is no longer functioning).  One of our past M&E facilitators once described the difference between the two as the difference between a check-up and an autopsy! Good evaluation practice has been seen to include both formative and summative evaluation:

Formative Evaluation

  • This happens during the project, counts as feedback and not judgement.
  • It’s done in preparation for a Summative Evaluation and allows you to check on your compliance and deliverables.
  • It’s an in-depth look at issues you are addressing, what you are learning and whether there have been unintended consequences.

Summative Evaluation

  • This is a retrospective assessment of whether a project achieved what it set out to do.
  • It requires judgements being made and is often required by funders.
Examples of Summative Evaluation include:
  1. External Evaluation which is done by an outside evaluator or outside evaluation team.
  2. Interactive Evaluation which entails active interaction between an outside evaluator or evaluation team and the project. An insider may be included in the evaluation team.
  3. Internal Summative Evaluation which requires self-evaluation and implementors to take a look at themselves and assess how they are doing. Participatory evaluation is included in this such that many stakeholders as possible are involved for a well balanced internal assessment.
Source: Adapted from Inyathelo’s 2012 Autumn Academy Presentation on Monitoring and Evaluation.

Additional Resources:

Click here for more on Using Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning

Click here to download the Civicus Toolkit on Monitoring and Evaluation 

Click here for an article on Understanding Different Evaluations

Click to download this research paper on ‘Some Thoughts on Programme Evaluation’