RE: Recurring errors in public policies and major projects: contributions and solutions from evaluation | Eval Forward


I think your questions can be given generic answers, whose importance may vary according to the prevailing local conditions. I would like to underline that no 'development effort' will be free of some or all of them irrespective of the political maturity and economic status of a country. After all, even though great deal of lip service is done to deal with 'thinking in silos', precious little is being done to guard against 'working in silos' throughout the world. Let us always keep this distinction in mind if we wish to be realistic.

Now to the questions:

What are the most common mistakes made in your country?

The greatest mistakes are the failure to ascertain the following before a project/plan is designed and executed:

1. Are the beneficiaries willing and able to derive sufficient real benefits from it with reference to their abilities and expectations and not according to those of some distant planners?

2. Are there sufficient local resources both physical and human, needed to make the best use of what has been planned? For instance, there is no need for a multi-million Dollar bridge to transport a couple of tonnes of vegetables to a nearby city.

3. Does the area/country has sufficient technical skills and financial resources to maintain the end-result on its completion?

4. Are there other better alternatives to the current proposal? For instance, in an area where high unemployment rates obtain, it would be more appropriate to select a labour-intensive alternative than a capital-intensive high tech one. After all, the purpose of every development effort should be to enable as many people as possible to secure a decent livelihood.

This list is not exhaustive, but I think its general drift is quite clear.

• To what extent do you think these mistakes could have been avoided with better use of evaluation, or that evaluation could contribute to the success of policies and major development projects?

This is indeed a tricky question. If we speak of evaluation in a very narrow technical sense as it is often done, it can not be of much use here. However, if we are willing to work out of silos as it were, and opt for a holistic notion of evaluation, it could make a significant contribution. That 'if' is logical.

Let me explain; if we are planning to evaluation not the mere hardware of en effort say a hospital or a bridge, and extend our activities to its intended purpose, i.e., benefiting a group of real live people, then it would be invaluable. This might be called pre-effort evaluation of possiblebenefits made with reference to the 4 points above.

• Have the results of evaluations allowed to amend the failures of public policies and development projects?

If evaluation is only concerned with 'the hardware', it could influence policies and implementation strategies only insofar as they are concerned with the end-result, but never with its benefit yield to real people. For example, better bridge building strategies can result in better bridges, but that does not address the question of their utility. So, it would be reasonable to suggest that only holistic pre-evaluation could be of use in better policy design and implementation strategies.

• Have public policies and projects developed subsequent to the conducted evaluations taken into account previous errors and corrections?

Another contributor has already made many perspicacious remarks on this.

Best wishes!