Equity In Practice: Project Evaluations

How to prepare and conduct equity focused evaluations

Why the Evaluations Catalystas Leads Are Equity-Focused – And Why Yours Should Be Too 


First of all; let’s start from the beginning: what are equity-focused evaluations? 

They are definitely not a fixed set of methods that you can apply by the letter to fit any and every kind of evaluation.  

According to the definition given by UNICEF, equity means that all individuals should have an opportunity to survive, develop, and reach their full potential, without discrimination, bias or favoritism. 

An equity focus can be considered a standpoint, a way to pay attention to specific issues and groups of persons (especially those considered the most marginalized or worst off groups in a community). In the context of evaluation, this standpoint will inform the choice of the designs, methods, the composition of the evaluation team, and the manner in which the evaluation will be carried out. More concretely, it’s an assessment of the Relevance, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Impact, and Sustainability (which are the generally used criteria, but you can use other ones) of interventions on equitable development results. 

And so, why use them? Well, firstly because inequity constitutes a violation of human rights. Therefore, all development and humanitarian projects should uphold universality and non-discrimination values, and strive at all times for more equity. That includes the evaluation process.  

An equity-based evaluation provides an analysis of the effects of any given project on different groups, including potentially negative or unintended effects. When left unchecked, these effects can have serious consequences, for example, increasing the gaps between marginalized and other groups. Without actively implementing equity-focused methodologies, organizations leave themselves at risk for non-adherence to the core humanitarian principle of Do No Harm.  


1- When a project constructs schools with no concern regarding the physical accessibility of the buildings, this may improve the overall level of education for the general population, but may also result in the unintended negative consequence of widening the gap between able bodied children and children with disabilities, who are unable to access facilities.

 2- If a project provides services or goods to select groups within a community, this can increase internal tensions and cause jealousy, violence, and discrimination directed at the beneficiary groups by the rest of the community. As a result, the beneficiary groups might end up in a worse position than before the project began. This has been seen in cases in India, where gender-based violence against women was seen to rise when women were given micro-credits.  

Finally, equity-focused evaluations contribute to knowledge management and the empowerment of most marginalized groups. This means that the evaluative process itself works towards the achievement of development goals. Pretty nice, right? 

The ‘why’ is all well and good – but now how can an organization actually implement equity-focused evaluations? These steps can help ensure you are on the right track:  

3- Plan adequate resources. An equity-focused evaluation will require a bit more time, and therefore slightly more financial resources allotted. (no worries, nothing extreme) 

4- Pay close attention to the context analysis. This will help you understand the root and systemic causes of inequity for each specific context your project is addressing. 

5- Based on the context analysis, identify the determinants for discrimination (I.E. gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, income, location, etc.). 

6- Use mixed methods of data collection in order to ensure that all voices are heard and that data can be triangulated. This means utilizing both qualitative and quantitative data, collected through different methods (desk review, focus groups, key informants interviews, observation…). 

7- Ensure stakeholder participation. This includes the most vulnerable groups, and should be implemented from the initial planning stages all the way through the process. Alleviate the potential obstacles to their participation as much as possible. This can be done through communicating transparently about the goals and implementation of the process, arranging and covering transportation costs if needed, making sure that the locations are safe and secure, as well as physically accessible to people with disabilities, ensuring confidentiality, and more. 

8- Make sure that your evaluation team is culturally and gender sensitive. (Yes, exactly like the Catalystas team!) 

9- Create a safe and respectful space during any and all interviews and focus groups carried out. 

10- Disaggregate the data collected according to the determinants selected in order to discover patterns and examine whether differences in the effects of the project on various groups emerge. 

11- Make sure that the results of the evaluation are presented in a clear way. The results should always be accessible for, and disseminated to, the worst off groups. 

If you are interested in learning more about equity-focused evaluations, please feel free to reach out to us. Our experts can provide you with a vast library of resources, theoretical and technical advice, and practical support.  

Some of our favorite guides:  

12- A comprehensive training offer from UN Women on Gender-Sensitive Programming and Evaluations 

13- A practical guide on disability mainstreaming 


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Monitoring and Evaluation

Program Monitoring & Evaluation


Outcome Harvesting

CASE STUDY: ActionAid Kenya Isiolo

cover photo for actionaid isiolo county kenya catalystas consulting

Isiolo Country Kenya Smiling farmers from ActionAid


Catalysta Aviva Stein worked alongside ActionAid Netherlands in order to assist the Country Office in Kenya with mid-project evaluation reporting. ActionAid is an international NGO dedicated to supporting women’s rights, empowering local communities, and combating inequality in developing countries.

Catalystas worked alongside ActionAid Netherlands in order to assist their Country Office in Kenya with mid-project evaluation reporting. ActionAid is an international NGO dedicated to supporting women’s rights, empowering local communities, and combating inequality in developing countries. With ongoing projects in more than 45 countries, ActionAid needed to ensure high quality reporting with timely results.

Through liaising directly with the ActionAid Kenya team as well as the ActionAid Netherlands office, Catalysta Aviva successfully generated a comprehensive mid-project evaluation report, complete with thorough insights into progress analysis and situational complexities. This report will enable ActionAid Kenya to showcase its project progress and results to donors and potential partners, both locally and internationally.

beneficiaries of actionaid Isiolo Country program.From Farm to Table

Isiolo County, Kenya has faced a variety of hardships in recent years, most notably the effects of climate change. These effects have culminated in harsh droughts and massive floods, resulting in extreme soil erosion, livestock deaths, loss of property, and health hazards. An additional side effect has been resource-based conflict, with clashes between farmers, cattle herders, and local security forces over available land. However, the people of Isiolo are resilient, innovative, and hopeful.

Local communities have been eager to participate in ActionAid Kenya’s “Isiolo Project: Changing Lives in Semi-Arid Areas”. The Isiolo Project is focused on providing local communities with the tools they need to build sustainable futures through environmentally friendly farming techniques. A multi-year program, proper monitoring and evaluation plays a key role in ensuring the continued success and long term feasibility of the project as a whole. In order to provide ActionAid Kenya and ActionAid Netherlands with the highest quality report possible, Catalysta Aviva engaged in a multi-step methodology.

Turning a template into a narrative

First, Catalystas took a hard look at ActionAid Kenya’s first draft submission. We identified gaps in data, sections in need of expansion, and general areas for improvement. Outlining the changes and updates needed throughout the draft, we worked closely with the Kenya team in order to facilitate a learning process for them surrounding developing reports.

Using our extensive notes as a guideline, the ActionAid Kenya team then revised their draft and submitted a new version, with greatly improved attention to detail and documentation of the program. Aviva then reviewed this second draft closely in concert with the team lead of the Kenya office. Section by section, we developed and revised the report in order to ensure that all important information for participants, partners, and donors was included. Aviva also emphasized the importance of including extensive media documentation, background context, and situational challenges and complexities in order to create a comprehensive evaluation report that addressed both achievements and challenges while highlighting progress to date. Furthermore, she developed a narrative throughout the evaluation, creating an engaging report that incorporated both qualitative and quantitative data from the project, therefore humanizing the numbers.

The Results: Realizing the Report

By focusing on creating a narrative report that showcased the progress and efforts of the Isiolo Project, Aviva created a strong evaluation that demonstrated just how much headway the participants have made despite the large number of challenges they are facing. The final report was largely praised by the ActionAid Netherlands office, and the ActionAid Kenya team voiced their appreciation for her dedication and support. With this mid-project evaluation, ActionAid will be able to present its progress to partners and donors in order to secure continued funding for the Isiolo Project.


Scope of Work

Catalystas provided the following the services for ActionAid:

Monitoring and Evaluation

Developed and finalized a mid-project evaluation report

Supporting field staff to deliver necessary data and information from the field to finalize outcomes reporting

Project Development

Liaised between ActionAid Country Offices Netherlands and Kenya

Ensured that project progress remained on track for organizational goals

Tailored Training & Capacity Development

Guidance of country office teams in developing project analysis

Guidance of country office teams in documentation and organization of data