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Meta Evaluations as Key Moments to Promote Organisational Learning

May 22, 2013 | bit-wartung | Methods & Tools |

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In this blog post Nara Weigel reflects on how evaluations can promote learning. More specifically, she shares her experience with designing and conducting a learning-oriented evaluation process for organisational learning.

 By Nara Weigel, Helvetas


Project evaluations are an integral part of the project cycle and are conducted regularly in the otherwise often unpredictable context of development cooperation. Among other things, this is why some say evaluations are a perfect moment for learning. While learning from evaluations is easier to promote and measure at the project level, aggregating evaluation findings across an entire organisation and ensuring that this leads to learning and adapted practices is extremely difficult. HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation decided to tackle this challenge in 2012 by conducting a meta evaluation to examine systematically whether findings from project evaluations were leading to changes at the level of the organisation.

Key Findings of the Meta Evaluation

The meta evaluation identified recurrent thematic and process related findings of project evaluations (conducted between 2009-2011) and proposed mechanisms to improve the translation of such findings into new practices at the organisational level. In a nutshell:

• Two types of recurrent thematic findings were identified: 1) Working area specific findings, e.g. on projects in the areas of water and infrastructure, climate change and environment, governance and peace, etc.; and 2) across working areas regarding sustainability, relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and gender. While overall results were encouraging, some recurrent thematic challenges were also identified, e.g. regarding sustainability, working at scale, partnership relations and knowledge management issues.
Recurrent procedural and methodological findings were also analysed. One important finding was that even though it is correct that evaluation reports focus on challenges and areas for improvement (“learning from mistakes paradigm”), they should also highlight positive findings. Many staff members stressed that in their experience, such positive findings or good practices were not considered enough in evaluations and that this was a missed opportunity also in terms of making evaluations more learning-oriented.

Find out more about the results of the meta evaluation and how it was conducted by watching this short video: 

Reflections on the Meta Evaluation Process

The meta evaluation itself was an important moment for learning and was designed to provide space for reflection and testing new methods for learning from evaluations, e.g. through the use of videos and the intranet to encourage remote participation. The innovative and participatory evaluation was well received by all staff. Overall it was encouraging in terms of results, even though many challenges were identified.


Have you had similar experiences regarding learning from evaluations? How do you as an individual or organisation promote evaluations as moments for learning?

You can download the executive summary of the meta evaluation and find more information on the methodologies used at http://helvetas.org/achievements/learning_from_evaluation


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