CGIAR Advisory Services
CGIAR Advisory Services (CAS) comprise three independent advisory functions: the Independent Science for Development Council (ISDC); the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA); and the CAS/Evaluation Function; all supported by the CAS Shared Secretariat. Together, CAS provides external, impartial and expert advice and evidence on strategy and positioning, impact assessment, and evaluation.
During 2021, ISDC provided analysis and advice on the emerging CGIAR portfolio. It moderated the external assessment of the One CGIAR Initiative proposals, based on a fair and transparent assessment process.
ISDC delivered a report on the first 19 reviews of CGIAR Initiative proposals, a review of the Companion Document to the CGIAR Investment Prospectus, and provided a commentary on the Investment Prospectus.
Two briefs set out key areas of advising: a brief to operationalize the Quality of Research for Development Frame of Reference for the Initiative Reviews, and a brief to address a culture of innovation in CGIAR. A video address from the ISDC summarized some of the key messages that ISDC took to the 13th meeting of the System Council about the future of One CGIAR.
ISDC also expanded its diversity and capacity during the year, welcoming three new members.
By completing the first business cycle of the six-year workplan (2019–2024), SPIA began moving from a scoping and matching phase to an implementation, results, and learning phase, and the workplan remained on track to address One CGIAR priorities. During 2021, SPIA continued to broaden the impact assessment community of practice, achieving good representation of different audiences.
SPIA supported One CGIAR Initiatives to develop their specific impact assessment plans, stressing that these should be developed from the start of the research process to test assumptions of the theory of change (ToC) and to causally test impacts related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The support included guidance for Initiative impact assessment plans and a training video on how to use the ToC to design impact assessments. SPIA also engaged with System Council members through their 14th meeting, and with the Strategic Impact, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (SIMEC) on methods for and approaches to impact assessment for One CGIAR.
The SPIA series of webinars supported CGIAR early career researchers to think through how to rigorously design impact assessments, while the small grants program helped them to address new research questions using datasets from SPIA-supported studies.
In 2021, SPIA started a new set of studies on digital tools. Other accountability and learning studies continued to receive support, with emerging evidence of impacts of CGIAR innovations. One 2021 study reported sustained adoption and positive impacts of demi-lunes in the Sahel, and a second study innovatively used remote sensing techniques to measure environmental impacts of index-based livestock insurance.
SPIA continued to build on the successful experience of the Shining a Brighter Light in Ethiopia report, and expanded country work to Uganda to document the reach of CGIAR innovations and to track the dissemination of biofortified sweet potato. Scoping work in Vietnam started to take stock of CGIAR innovations, identifying potential items on the SPIA methods and measurement agenda.
The CAS/Evaluation Function conducted three major external evaluative activities in 2021. It delivered the 2021 Synthesis of Learning from a Decade of CGIAR Research Programs report, which drew on 43 past evaluations of CGIAR Research Programs. Knowledge management activities that supported the uptake to One CGIAR of the synthesis included briefs for each strategic Action Area outlined in the CGIAR Research and Innovation Strategy; namely, Systems Transformation, Resilient Agrifood Systems, and Genetic Innovation.
The CAS/Evaluation Function also delivered an external evaluation of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. Major progress was made as well on the Excellence in Breeding Platform Evaluation, with the report at an advanced state by year end and the Inception Report available.
Extensive communication and knowledge management activities of the CAS/Evaluation Function supported the delivery of performance and process evaluation evidence to key audiences. These audiences included the Initiative Design Teams involved in producing the One CGIAR Initiative proposals.
Completing a change process initiated in 2018, the CAS Secretariat was fully staffed as of early January 2021, by a diverse, international team. In 2021, the CAS Secretariat liaised with CGIAR executive management and governance entities to deliver relevant, timely, and accessible advice and evidence produced by ISDC, SPIA, and the Evaluation Function for CGIAR, through a regular CAS newsletter (subscribe through this link). The CAS 2021 annual snapshot captures some of the major features that characterize ISDC, SPIA, and the CAS/Evaluation Function in 2021.
 The Evaluation Function is implemented as a unit within the CAS Shared Secretariat.