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.
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.
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.
Plan adequate resources. An equity-focused evaluation will require a bit more time, and therefore slightly more financial resources allotted. (no worries, nothing extreme)
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 addressin based on the context analysis, identify the determinants for discrimination (I.E. gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, income, location, etc.).
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…).
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.
Make sure that your evaluation team is culturally and gender-sensitive. (Yes, exactly like the Catalystas team!)
Create a safe and respectful space during any and all interviews and focus groups carried out.
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.
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:
- A comprehensive training offer from UN Women on Gender-Sensitive Programming and Evaluations
- A practical guide on disability mainstreaming