Our vision of linking evaluations and learning: ACF Learning Review 2011
How can we effectively evaluate humanitarian programmes and use lessons learned to strengthen organisational policy and practice?
For the past two years, the Evaluation, Learning & Accountability (ELA) Unit at Action Against Hunger UK (ACF-UK) has been helping ACF International answer this very question. For us this process was completely new, and despite an initial hesitancy about potentially exposing ourselves in a learning review, we decided that we want to do more. Now we want to hear other organisations' experiences.
Our approach was simple: to create a clear and consistent framework to evaluate ACF programmes around the world. We wanted to come up with a framework that could allow us to capture ACF performance in key areas, but also flexible enough to capture best practices. The information generated by the development and use of the Evaluation Policy & Guidelines, has been used to create ACF’s first ever annual Learning Review. The Review brings together some of the most innovative experiences and important lessons identified during 2011, shedding light on some of the challenges and opportunities facing the organisation and the wider humanitarian sector.
The ACF Learning Review presents in a concise and user-friendly way three different – but complementary – types of information garnered from our 2011 evaluations.
Looking at ACF through the OECD-DAC lens
To help track progress, all external evaluations were asked to rank ACF programmes using the seven DAC Criteria (Impact, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Relevance/Appropriateness, Sustainability, Coherence and Coverage) from 1 (low) to 5 (high). This means field programmes will be able to track their progress over time and the organisation can get an annual, global snapshot of our collective performance. The Learning Review also aims to go beyond this: by identifying factors that affect (positively and negatively) performance in these areas and offering concrete recommendations for improvement.
Meeting the challenges of a changing sector
In 2011, ACF International carried out more evaluations than ever before. In the process, we were able to get an insight into some of the most important issues facing the humanitarian sector. The Learning Review features sections on four key areas. For example, as humanitarian space and access diminishes in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, remote management is rapidly becoming a key element of the NGO toolkit. The Review turned its attention to ACF’s remote management experience in Somalia and the factors necessary for success. Adapting to changing contexts was also tackled by the evaluation of ACF’s South Sudan strategy, and the ten key recommendations provide a valuable blueprint for any country strategy. The use of fresh food vouchers is also becoming a staple of livelihood interventions, and the Learning Review provides some of the emerging good practices in this exciting area. The Review went beyond processes and provided the first open review of the impact of ACF nutrition programmes, through an analysis of its coverage and the main factors affecting ACF’s performance.
Best practices from ACF International
Every external evaluation carried out by ACF in 2011 had one common feature: all evaluators were expected to identify one Best Practice – a unique element that stood out for its positive impact on the quality of ACF programmes. From the practical to the strategic, from the systems to the technical, all evaluations set out to identify such practice. ACF field and technical staff helped to develop the rationale, process and future use of these practices. In 2011, a total of 14 Best Practices were identified; from innovative targeting techniques, to successful examples of partnerships, programme integration and community-based programming. In doing so, the Learning Review sought to bring programmes closer together, thus enabling programmes in one part of the world to learn from (and be inspired by) the actions of similar programmes elsewhere.
We realise that the Learning Review is not the end point, but rather the beginning of a transformational process that other organisations may have already started. We hope to prove that when people share their lessons, it’s not the end of the world; the skies don’t fall on our heads, donors don’t call to cancel contracts. So if you approve of this kind of thinking, please let us know; if you do this kind of thing, we’d love to hear from you; and if it’s a copy of the Learning Review that you are after, drop us a line below.
Click here to read the ACF-UK Learning Review 2011.
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