Evaluation at FAO

Guidance note for conducting evaluations under the pandemic (COVID-19)


The FAO Office of Evaluation (OED) has developed a Guidance Note in view of the exceptional international situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions set in place by many countries. The Guidance Note aims to ensure the continuation of good quality evaluative work while respecting and sustaining international efforts to limit the spread of the virus and respond to the pandemic.

Evaluators are adjusting evaluation designs, and approaches, including postponing or cancelling field missions to avoid putting at risk consultants and beneficiaries. A large part of data collection is being done remotely, using various methods and tools e.g., virtual interviews with evaluation stakeholders, use of online surveys.  

For field-surveys and interviews at household, community and sub-national institutional level, we are exploring options for also reaching out to beneficiaries remotely, e.g. via mobile phone.

In this context, national and regional consultants will be pivotal in supporting evaluation data collection as they may have easier access (through language, time-zone and familiarity with the context) to non-international key informants, such as staff of governmental institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders. The optimal option would be to conduct remote consultations with mixed teams of national and international consultants providing guidance and quality assurance. 

For on-going project and program evaluations, we are establishing evaluation contact groups with the Evaluation Manager, evaluation consultants and the FAO staff/project managers involved, to review the situation and the options weekly.

In areas where national and/or local authorities have not put in place any restrictions regarding the gathering of people, and after careful consideration, key informants/beneficiaries could be asked to take and share short videos of community level activities and group discussions. Likewise, where mobility and access are not restricted, for some of these activities the Evaluation Manager could consider enlisting the help of the Monitoring and Evaluation officer and/or other project staff, implementing partners or third party monitoring and data companies present in the country who may still be operational on the ground. 

The guiding rationale would be to only piggy-back on activities and travel that are going on anyway under project/program implementation (under the responsibility and decisions of the country offices) to minimize or avoid additional exposure of staff, consultants or partners through exclusive evaluation-related activities. 

An example of the above is currently ongoing for an evaluation of FAO’s activities in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (EU project). One of the project staff is still visiting the beneficiaries in the camp on a weekly basis, despite the lockdown. This is due to the fact that the activities of the project are connected to waste management and cannot be stopped, plus require continued technical supervision. The Evaluation Manager has asked the project staff to provide a short flyer to beneficiaries in Arabic, explaining the purpose of the evaluation and informing them they will receive a phone-call to be interviewed.

As the FAO Director General said to world leaders, we all need to take measures to ensure access to food for the world's poor and most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular “we have to ensure that food value chains are not disrupted and continue to function well and promote the production and availability of diversified, safe and nutritious food for all”. 

As evaluators, we support the Organization in all its efforts to continue performing effectively and efficiently in this difficult context by providing evidence-based information that will enhance learning, provide accountability widely and support decision-making.