Prior to the launch of the SIF Project, the project leadership and our external evaluator, Patrick Boyle, agreed that a form of integrative evaluation would be adopted. Essentially, this means that from the beginning, evaluation is part of the fabric of the project’s leadership and implementation. We anticipate many benefits for the project which will become evident over time. A brief overview of this approach follows.
An integrative approach
First, the integrative approach to evaluation we are embracing subsumes normal good practice principles for evaluation (e.g. asking and responding effectively to relevant evaluative questions concerning important aspects of the project). In addition, some general features that often don’t characterise project evaluation, warrant highlighting.
- Evaluation is viewed as a causal success factor for a project, not simply an add-on process deemed to be largely impartial
- Evaluation and project implementation activities can often work in synergy (e.g. consultation with key stakeholders can simultaneously assist with reviewing and improving a project, and generating active engagement in its activities)
- Evaluation is important during all phases of a project’s life
- Phases of evaluation are interrelated. For example, front-end evaluation (of intent, design, etc.) helps shape ongoing formative evaluation; and these both inform summative evaluation)
- Formal and informal evaluation processes can both have high value for a project
From the start of the project, the PMT has been actively engaged with evaluation in different ways. With Patrick’s help, the project’s conceptualization and aspects of strategy have been reviewed using an intended project logic model. This is leading to refined priorities, design features and other elements such as risk identification.
It has also provided early material evidence of the value placed on review and improvement in the project. Soon, information from this exercise will help with the development of a monitoring and evaluation frame, which will guide formative evaluation and project management.
Operational planning for the project is also being informed by these early evaluation activities. Importantly, from the very early days of the project, the PMT is adopting an authentic critically reflective disposition in relation to leadership and implementation. One manifestation of this is ensuring that requests for feedback are an integral part of project implementation steps, enabling, for example, the logging of ideas and other information for ongoing use.