Why: Learning and Accountability
Evaluation is relevant in our societies. Firstly because it is one of the few mechanisms that assist politicians and managers to learn on basis of systematic research as contrasted to intuitive conclusions. Secondly because of the increased attention for accountability, notably of public organisations.
There is nothing against learning by intuition. On the contrary, our society would probably be in a poor state if our education, science, and business were to progress without the intuition and charisma of individuals who are committed to experiment, innovate and develop. Yet, when it comes to the use of public resources by (formal) organisations, parts of the learning process have to be formalised as well. Intuition is difficult to instil by force, or to transfer from one person to another. Therefore, systematic and unbiased research and structured evaluation are of great value to establish the factors that positively influence the achievement of objectives and targets, and even innovation, and development.
Timely and Resource-efficient Accountability
There is a wish, and more often a formal need for accountability. The general public, those responsible for the implementation of policies, programmes, projects, and those who set policies and development priorities feel that it is not sufficient if implementators state that they did their best to spend public resources properly. Were the objectives stated feasible? Was the implementation process efficient and effective? Did the implementation strategy result in good quality output and outcomes? Were higher program and sector objectives realised? What is the impact and sustainability of what we achieved? Have all relevant circumstances and opportunities been considered when answering these questions? What were these circumstances in fact? These and many other questions should be more than rituals. They reflect a genuine living interest in a society in which public officials are able to be held accountable, and show that they did a good and responsible job when implementing approved policies or programmes.
Presentation and Sharing of Evaluation Results
These two reasons, systematic learning and accountability are not the only reasons for evaluation. However, they are by far the most important ones. The use of evaluation findings for publicity and information purposes is another important - but often neglected - aspect of evaluation exercises. Finally, sharing evaluation results at a higher and wider level than the own organisation, and thus enhancing learning beyond one?s own project, program, own organisation or sector, is of considerable relevance too.