Enhancing Pathway to Impact: CGIAR’s Experience with Evaluability Assessments of Regional Programming

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In the dynamic world of global agricultural research, the CGIAR 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy promotes a multi-faceted approach, aiming to leverage science and partnership to drive positive change across regions, countries, and landscapes. The CGIAR Strategy aims to improve food, land and water systems in a context of climate crisis through three key Action Areas  Systems Transformation, Resilient Agrifood Systems (RAFS), and Genetic Innovation. Since 2022, six Regional Integrated Initiatives (RIIs) have been embedded within these Action Areas across the globe to maximize the impact of CGIAR’s work at the national and regional levels. The RIIs have aimed to embody CGIAR’s collaborative ethos of fostering a culture of partnership and capacity development.

In late 2023, the evaluation function of CGIAR’s Independent Advisory and Evaluation Services (IAES) commissioned evaluability assessments (EAs) of four of the six RIIs with the objective to assess the quality of their MEL approach, facilitate reflection on capacity and readiness for evaluation, clarify resource needs, and synthesize learnings for organizational improvement. An EA Framework, designed specifically for CGIAR in 2022, facilitated assessment across 6 domains: intervention logic; MEL systems and resources; gender, diversity and inclusion; long-term evaluability; context and environment; and management and key stakeholder engagement and support. These four RII EAs were among the first conducted at CGIAR using the EA Framework.

The concept of evaluability is pertinent to an ambitious and evolving agenda like CGIAR’s. EAs are central to a culture of results within any organization. As the late evaluation theorist Michael Scriven described, evaluability is analogous to requiring serviceability in a new car, and that it may be thought of as “the first commandment in accountability” (Scriven, 1991, p. 138). While an evaluability assessment may be successfully done retroactively (see an example on Climate change adaptation- MacPherson et al, 2022), conducting an evaluability assessment at the design stage in particular facilitates quality assurance and sound development of a monitoring and evaluation approach.

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