Do you know what is Evaluation?

Definition Made Simple:  from around the world. There are many definitions of evaluation depending on the context and organization, but most have a common thread. If you’re an M&E specialist like the members of EvalCommunity, you probably do. 


What do you mean evaluation? (Canadian Society of Evaluation)

Systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making. There are many definitions of evaluation depending on the context and organization, but most have a common thread. If you’re an M&E specialist like the members of EvalCommunity, you probably do. 

Systematic: It should be as systematic and impartial as possible (UNEG, 2005). It is methodical, providing information that is credible, reliable, and useful to enable the incorporation of lessons learned into decision-making process of users and funders (OECD, 2010). It is based on empirical evidence and typically on social research methods, thus on the process of collecting and synthesizing evidence (Rossi Lipsey and Freeman, 2004). Conclusions made in evaluations encompass both an empirical aspect and a normative aspect (Fournier, 2005). It is the value feature that distinguishes evaluation from other types of enquiry such as basic science research, clinical epidemiology, investigative journalism, or public polling.

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Assessment: It considers value, merit, worth, significance, or quality (Scriven, 1991).  It identifies what works, for whom, in what respects, to what extent, in what contexts, and how (Pawson and Tilley, 2004). It examines expected and achieved accomplishments, the results chain, processes, contextual factors, and causality in order to understand achievements or the lack thereof (UNEG, 2005). It may focus on a broad range of topics including relevance, accessibility, comprehensiveness, integration, fulfillment of objectives, effectiveness, impact, cost, efficiency, and sustainability (Patton, 1997; OECD, 2010). The evaluation process normally involves some identification of relevant standards, some investigation of performance on these standards, and some integration or synthesis of the results to achieve an overall evaluation (Scriven, 1991; OECD, 2010).

Initiatives: It can focus on any kind of initiative such as programs, projects, sub-programs, sub-projects, and/or their components or elements (Yarbrough et al, 2011; Scriven, 2003).

Purposes: It can be conducted for the purposes of decision making, judgments, conclusion, findings, new knowledge, organizational development, and capacity building in response to the needs of identified stakeholders leading to improvement, decisions about future programming, and/or accountability ultimately informing social action ameliorating social problems and contributing to organizational or social value (Yarbrough et al, 2011; Patton, 1997).


1. What do you mean by evaluation? (USA)

It is a systematic process to determine merit, worth, value or significance. So what does that mean in practice? Let’s use one kind of evaluation, program evaluation, to illustrate. Programs and projects of all kinds aspire to make the world a better place. Program evaluation answers questions like: To what extent does the program achieve its goals? How can it be improved? Should it continue? Are the results worth what the program costs? Program evaluators gather and analyze data about what programs are doing and accomplishing to answer these kinds of questions.

A program evaluation has to be designed to be appropriate for the specific program being evaluated. Health programs aim to make people healthier and prevent disease. School programs strive to increase student learning. Employment training programs try to help the unemployed get jobs. Homelessness initiatives work to get people off the streets and into safe housing. Chemical dependency programs help people using alcohol and drugs. Community development programs plan initiatives to increase prosperity among those in poverty. Juvenile diversion programs try to keep kids out of jail and put them on a path to becoming productive adults. For each kind of program, an evaluation would gather and analyze data about that program’s effectiveness. But program evaluation is only one kind of evaluation. T


2. What do you mean by evaluation? (UNEG)

The definition of evaluation developed by the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG). The key part of the definition is that evaluation is: “An assessment, as systematic and impartial as possible, of an activity, project, program, strategy, policy, topic, theme, sector, operational area, or institutional performance. It analyses the level of achievement of both expected and unexpected results by examining the results chain, processes, contextual factors, and causality using appropriate criteria such as relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability.


3. What do you mean by evaluation?  (OECD/DAC)

A systematic assessment of a planned, ongoing, or completed intervention to determine its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, and sustainability. The intent is to incorporate lessons learned into the decision-making process. Adapted from OECD/DAC Glossary, 2002)


What is the purpose of evaluation?

Evaluation is a process that critically examines an intervention. It involves collecting and analyzing information about a project, policy, and program’s activities, characteristics, and outcomes.

The purposes of an evaluation will inform (and be informed by) the evaluation timelines, resources, stakeholders involved and choice of evaluation options for describing implementation, context and impact. The final purpose is to make judgments about a program, project or policy to improve its effectiveness, efficiency and/or to inform programming decisions.


Other evaluation definitions used by organizations

  • Evaluation is the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making.
  • Evaluation is the systematic assessment to determine relevance, efficiency, and effectiveness of specific intervention/project/program
  • Assessing whether the intervention has achieved at least some of the desired results
  • Evaluation is the assessment of a project/program in order to measure the outcome and impact of the project/program against the set objectives.
  • The art of asking provocative questions (useful, meaningful, valid, relevant, and brave) that feed into decision-making and organizational learning. (Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd)
  • Evaluation is the systematic collection and analysis of information about the characteristics and outcomes of programs and projects as a basis for judgments, to improve effectiveness, and/or inform decisions about current and future programming. (anonymous) 
  • Systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed project results vis a vis planned targets and outcomes ( (anonymous))


Why evaluation is needed?

Evaluation may be either summative or formative. … The aim of formative evaluation is to provide the basis for course improvement, to determine the need for modification and ultimately to lay the foundations for future planning. It is a continuing process of critical reflection on experience leading to action.



What is the process of evaluation?

Process evaluation is concerned with evidence of activity, and the quality of implementation. The questions in a process evaluation focus on how, and how well programs are implemented.



What are the components of evaluation?


  • Planning. …
  • Implementation — Formative and Process Evaluation. …
  • Completion — Summative, Outcome, and Impact Evaluation. …
  • Dissemination and Reporting.