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. OEV is working towards increasing the number of policy evaluations conducted to approximately four per year by 2020. 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 or regional portfolio evaluations
Country or regional portfolio evaluations assess the strategic positioning, performance and results of all of WFP’s work in a country or region. Selection considers relevant timing for strategic and operational planning vis-à-vis the Strategic Plan, United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) and other UN coordination processes, resource profile and overall regional balance. The Evaluation Policy requires that the number of country portfolio evaluations increases progressively up to nine per year.
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.
Decentralized evaluations complement OEV’s evaluations of policies, strategies, country portfolios and impacts of core activities. In addition, they can cover activities, pilots, themes and transfer modalities. Under the new Evaluation Policy, decentralized evaluations 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.