Evaluation at FAO

What was the UNEG Evaluation Week like?


Who attended?

Between 7 and 11 May 2018, over 170 participants from more than 40 UN agencies worldwide came together at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy, for this year’s UNEG Evaluation Week. The United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) is an interagency professional network that brings together the evaluation units of the UN system, including UN departments, specialized agencies, funds and programmes, and affiliated organizations. This year’s event was jointly organized by the three UN Rome-based agencies: FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

What happened?

The evaluation week consisted of three events:

  1. A professional development seminar: participants had to choose among three options for a one-day training in various evaluation topics.
  2. The Evaluation Practice Exchange – a two-day exchange among evaluation professionals on experiences in evaluation methods, principles and management.
  3. The Annual General Meeting – the executive body of UNEG, responsible for its governance and strategic direction held its two-day meeting

During the Professional Development Seminar more than 120 evaluators attended one of the three trainings provided on topics of relevance to evaluation as identified through a survey conducted among participants to the 2017 Evaluation Week: impact evaluation, data visualization tools and introduction to the practice of SenseMaker. One session was on impact evaluation, Anna Henttinen, from WFP, Jyotsna Puri from the Green Climate Fund and Bidisha Barooah from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation shared their experiences in applying real-world impact evaluation methods creatively, using quasi-experimental methods. In the second session, Andy Kirk, an independent consultant, was very engaging providing attendees with accessible and comprehensive introduction to data visualisation and infographic design in evaluation. In the third training, Steff Deprez, an independent consultant, presented the use of an innovative narrative-based research, evaluation and decision-making methodology (Sensemaker ©) that can be used to monitor and evaluate of complex international development programmes.

On Tuesday 8 May, the Evaluation Practice Exchange (EPE) opened with the three Directors of the UN Rome based agencies sharing some of their personal experiences as evaluators. This year’s EPE set aside the typical PowerPoint presentations and instead opted for more innovative approaches and modalities. The inventive approach of the EPE proved a more interesting and interactive way of learning and sharing as afterwards, many of the participants remarked that they had found this year’s  EPE to be fun, innovative, engaging, inspiring, collaborative, creative and motivating.

The 18 EPE sessions took the form of stimulating case study presentations and plenary sessions, world café’s, group discussions, role-plays, working groups and debates (Watch the webcast of the opening session). EPE sessions were categorized under three different themes relevant to Evaluation: 1) Managing Evaluations, 2) Evaluation Principles and 3) Evaluation Methods. Some of the topics of the EPE included how to ensure gender-focused evaluations, how to rationalise the use of resources for evaluations, and making the best use of Theories of Change. Lunchtime seminars and working groups were also organised to allow evaluators to share their hands-on field experiences on evaluating capacity development, on decentralised evaluation and to discuss progress and outstanding issues about the professionalization of evaluation and future work plans in ethics and code of conduct guidance.

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place during the last two days of the Evaluation Week, when the Directors of evaluation and senior staff reviewed UNEG’s current work assessing progress of the four working groups and discussed upcoming strategies. In particular, the Executive Coordinator presented the 2017-2018 annual and financial report and the membership examined the UNEG Mid-term Review report. It was also decided that next year the UNEG Evaluation week will take place in Nairobi where the colleagues from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHABITAT) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be responsible for its organisation.

Outcomes of the Evaluation Week

For evaluation practice to get better results, evaluators need to know what practices and approaches work, what does not work and how to fix it. Both the PDS and EPE served as a forum to share and exchange the latest activities, best practices, lessons and knowledge in evaluation. For example, during the opening ceremony of the EPE, participants were asked to describe an evaluator’s most important skill, providing answers with their mobile phones (Using the Mentimeter application). Words like listening, analysis, integrity, communication, humility and responsibility were among the most popular answers (see Word cloud), and throughout the EPE such words continued to emerge in conversations. Thus, the Professional Development Seminar and EPE components served as a learning platform for capacity building, reflection, reassessment and recommitment towards advancing the effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of the UN system’s work by promoting and strengthening evaluation.

New interactive modalities introduced in the 2018 Evaluation Week

The EPE Committee, coordinated by Amélie Solal-Céligny from FAO Office of Evaluation, introduced a number of innovations, with respect to the previous conferences. For example, a video with 30-seconds presentations from each lead convener was prepared to briefly introduce the topic of the sessions, allowing participants to decide in advance which session they wanted to contribute to (Watch the video).

Another innovation introduced was the graphic recording of all EPE sessions by a team of professional designers from the company Scribing.it. The drawings provided a visual synopsis of the discussions and were used to summarize the outcomes of the three themes of this year’s EPE 1) Managing Evaluations, 2) Evaluation Principles and 3) Evaluation Methods, in the closing session. (Watch the webcast of the closing session). Link to the drawings

Finally, during several sessions - including the opening and closing of the EPE - participants could provide instant feedback on the ongoing discussions in an anonymous way with their mobile phones. This allowed keeping sessions alive, relevant to the interests of the audience, and engaging those who were not necessarily speaking up in the room.


Main Report

Photo galleries:

For more EPE documents visit the dedicated UNEG webpage