An Evaluation of Evaluation Methods: The Case for Meta-Evaluations in the Development Sector

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Jair SCHALKWIJK, Ghent University Belgium and Anton de Kom University of Suriname, Suriname
There is an evaluation gap in the development sector but not in the sense of evaluation methods or a lack of evaluation reports, but a gap in which evaluations make a difference by ‘making sure that the new knowledge is used in ways that improve the lives of people living in developing countries’ (Savedoff et al 2006:44). Jean Quesnel says ‘By doing, evaluating and doing again we learn to do better’ (Cracknell, 2000:37). But still it seems that even with all the evaluation methods and reports both the debate about aid effectiveness cannot be resolved nor have we learned or at least adjusted much for development projects to be more effective. As Conlin & Stirrat (2008:203) say: ‘Too often in the past messages generated by evaluators have had little influence on policy-makers either within agencies themselves or within the wider development world’. In this article we will critically look at why this is the case and make an argument for applying meta-evaluations in the field of development studies. Meta-evaluations can be done by synthesizing the lessons from different evaluation studies, even if they have been conducted through different evaluation methods. What is needed within the development sector is neither another evaluation method, nor hundreds more evaluation reports (of course evaluations should still be made). What is needed is that more learning takes place and this is possible through meta-evaluations.