In a world of national leadership, mutual accountability and global transparency, the capacity to provide independent, credible and useful evaluation evidence at all organizational levels is a necessity.
At the World Food Programme (WFP), it is also essential for practical reasons. We are both a leader in our field, and an integral part of the global system of humanitarian response as well as sustainable development. Lives depend on us, so do partners. We must ensure that we are fit for purpose, and that we remain so in a constantly and rapidly changing environment. Evidence and learning are key.
Our evaluations are accomplished through the periodic, impartial, systematic assessment of the performance of our activities, operations, strategies and policies. As well as providing lessons for immediate use, they allow us to capture and preserve institutional knowledge, creating an evidence base of our successes and challenges in diverse settings/countries from which we can learn and improve.
Historically, this has been managed centrally by WFP’s Office of Evaluation (OEV) at Headquarters. Now, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and aligning with changes within the organization, OEV is strengthening the capacity of regional bureaux and country offices to manage evaluations themselves – thus shortening the learning cycle and strengthening partner and beneficiary accountability.
Embedding evaluation into WFP’s culture of accountability and learning represents both a transfer of skills and a means of understanding what programming approaches work where and why.
This will provide donors and partners with greater detail about the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, impact and sustainability of WFP’s work. All WFP evaluations include impartiality safeguards; are conducted by independent professionals in accordance with United Nations Evaluation Group norms and standards; and are compliant with WFP's evaluation quality assurance system for centrally commissioned and decentralized evaluations (CEQAS and DEQAS).
In recent years, the humanitarian community has faced an unprecedented level of concurrent complex emergencies, and it has been difficult to step back and gain perspective about how to best move forward.
Yet, that is exactly what is required. In a constrained funding environment, and with transnational emergencies becoming increasingly common, a more comprehensive and strategic approach with joined-up thinking and collaborative planning is imperative – and it must be geared not only to response, but also to prevention through resilience-building. Evaluation evidence is needed to accomplish this, whenever possible conducted jointly with partners.
The Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework of interlinked objectives. Our new, broader system of evaluation will help quantify how well we are contributing to achieving those goals.
Areas of work
Strategic evaluations assess global or corporate themes, programmes and initiatives, selected for their relevance to WFP’s strategic direction and management. OEV selects topics based on regular horizon-scanning; recurring findings from evaluations; relevance for strategic developments in WFP’s internal context and external environment; corporate innovations and ways of working; major knowledge gaps and stakeholder suggestions and needs.
Policy evaluations assess quality, implementation and results. Selection is based on analysis of WFP’s Policy Compendium and information on intended future policy development. Policies approved more than six years prior are introduced into OEV’s work plan based on assessment of their continued relevance or potential to contribute to new policy development.
Country strategic plan evaluations
Country strategic plan evaluations are the main instrument for accountability and learning on WFP’s interventions at country level. They encompass the entirety of WFP activities during a specific country strategic plan. They assess WFP’s strategic positioning and role and the extent to which WFP has made the strategic shift expected by the CSP; WFP’s contributions to strategic outcomes; efficiency; factors that explain WFP performance.
Evaluations of corporate emergency responses
Evaluations of corporate emergency responses focus on the humanitarian context and principles, and the coverage, coherence and connectedness of the emergency response. In 2013 the Interagency Standing Committee’s (IASC) Transformative Agenda Humanitarian Programme Cycle agreed that all system-wide Level 3 emergency responses should trigger an inter-agency evaluation within the first year.
Impact evaluations assess the positive and negative, direct or indirect, intended or unintended changes in the lives of the people WFP serves. OEV may select topics for impact evaluations depending on major knowledge gaps, stakeholder suggestions and needs. This type of evaluation requires specific data availability and evaluation methods. Surveys, focus group discussions and participatory methods, as well as document review and discussions with key informants, are often used in impact evaluation.
Complementing OEV’s centralized and impact evaluations, decentralized evaluations cover activities, themes and transfer modalities. Managed by WFP Country Offices, Regional Bureaux and Headquarters-based divisions, other than the Office of Evaluation, they are recommended before the scale-up of pilots, innovations and prototypes; before high-risk interventions; and before the third repeat of an intervention of similar type or scope.
Evaluation syntheses are an approach used to highlight issues that cut across different evaluations, and to address questions using an existing evidence base. They combine data from multiple evaluations which are analysed from a comprehensive perspective to produce general conclusions.
Evidence summaries collate available evidence addressing a research question or a set of research questions related to a single topic. They are commonly produced within a short timeframe (linked to ‘rapid review’ methodology).