John [user:field_middlename] Akwetey

John Akwetey

Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation student | Evaluation Consultant
Western Michigan University (WMU), & The Evaluation Center (EC), Kalamazoo, Michigan
United States of America

John is an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation student, Western Michigan University, (WMU), a Graduate Research Assistant & an Evaluation café Co-organizer at The Evaluation Center, WMU. His research expertise includes evaluation systems, evaluation and pace of change, evaluation of technological systems and software, research on evaluation theories, methods, and practices, quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method, outcome harvesting and meta-analysis.

He holds a MSc in Development Evaluation and Management Studies from Institute of Development Policy, University of Antwerp, Belgium, and a BSc in Economics from Central University, Ghana. He has served in and led many research studies and evaluations, funded by International Organization for Migration (IOM), Global Green grants Fund, EUTF-IOM Joint Initiative on Migration Protection and Reintegration, Fondation Botnar, Tearfund, German Development Co-operation (GIZ), non-profits and many other institutions across several substantive domains, including health and nutrition, education, science and technology, agriculture, environment, community empowerment and international development. He also served as Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator, Team leader, evaluator, and methodologist for several research and evaluation grants and contracts.

My contributions

  • How are we progressing in SDG evaluation?

    • Dear Emilia

      Thank you for bringing up this discussion. That's an interesting thought! I have been reading the contributions with interest and I believe that moving beyond assessing progress towards the SDGs is crucial for achieving them by 2030. While tracking progress is important, it paints only a partial picture. Here are some potential areas in which I assist organizations and institutions in exploring beyond traditional assessments:

      1. Deepen Understanding of Challenges and Gaps:

      • Go beyond averages: Disaggregate data to understand how different demographics, regions, and groups are experiencing progress or setbacks.
      • Analyze root causes: Don't just measure outcomes, delve into the underlying factors hindering progress, such as inequalities, governance issues, or lack of resources.
      • Explore unintended consequences: Assess the potential negative impacts of actions taken towards reaching some SDGs, and how they might affect others.

      2. Facilitate Action and Implementation:

      • Identify actionable solutions: Use data and analysis to recommend practical interventions and policies that can accelerate progress.
      • Develop implementation pathways: Bridge the gap between policy and action by outlining concrete steps to achieve desired outcomes.
      • Engage stakeholders: Partner with communities, businesses, and civil society to co-create and implement solutions, fostering ownership and accountability.

      3. Promote Innovation and Collaboration:

      • Explore disruptive solutions: Go beyond traditional approaches and embrace innovative technologies, social models, and business practices that can significantly accelerate progress.
      • Foster multi-stakeholder partnerships: Break down silos and encourage collaboration between different sectors, leveraging diverse expertise and resources.
      • Support knowledge sharing and capacity building: Share best practices and lessons learned across regions and countries to accelerate global progress.

      4. Address Systemic Issues:

      • Tackle underlying inequalities: Recognize that unequal access to resources, opportunities, and power hinder progress, and prioritize actions that address these imbalances.
      • Strengthen institutions and governance: Invest in building strong, inclusive, and accountable institutions that can effectively implement the SDGs.
      • Promote sustainable development: Recognize that environmental degradation and climate change threaten progress on all SDGs, and integrate sustainability into all efforts.

      Let’s remember that achieving the SDGs requires a holistic approach that goes beyond just numbers. By understanding the challenges, fostering action, embracing innovation, and addressing systemic issues, we can move beyond mere assessment and create a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for all.

      Do you have any specific areas or challenges within the SDGs that you'd like to explore further? I'm happy to assist in any way I can.


      Best regards,

      John Akwetey (he/him/his)
      Doctoral Graduate Associate, The Evaluation Center
      Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation (IDPE) 
      Western Michigan University
      1903 W. Michigan Avenue
      Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5237
      + 1 (269) 210-9349

      Editorial Board Member, American Journal of Evaluation (AJE) 

    • The reflections are based on my experience as a co-Principal Investigator in the Interim Evaluation of Project REG-019-18, the Nudging for Good project.

      The project entails a research partnership between the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Pennsylvania State University/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the University of Ghana, the Thai Nguyen National Hospital, Thai Nguyen University of Pharmacy and Medicine, and the National Institute of Nutrition in Viet Nam. This interdisciplinary team spans a range of disciplines, including epidemiology, nutrition, economics, and machine learning to combine cutting-edge experience in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

      The research partnership was founded on the IFPRI’s experience of food systems that have shown that the timely provision of information can effectively address knowledge constraints that influence dietary choices. IFPRI also leads the research and takes on the responsibilities of data analysis and reporting on the results. Pennsylvania State University/FAO was tasked with extending their existing AI platform with additional functionality on dietary assessments and including the capability to nudge adolescents towards improved dietary practices. The country teams, including the University of Ghana and the Thai Nguyen National Hospital, Thai Nguyen University of Pharmacy and Medicine, and the National Institute of Nutrition in Viet Nam are responsible for the in-country validation and feasibility testing of the AI-based technology.

      The research entails developing, validating, and testing the feasibility of using AI-based technology that allows for accurate diagnostics of food intake. The research was based on the hypothesis that food consumption and diet-related behaviours will improve if adolescents are provided with tailored information that addresses their knowledge-related barriers to healthy food choices.

      Based on the nuances of these research partnerships, and the objectives of the evaluation, we adopted Relevance and Effectiveness from the OECD/DAC evaluation criteria and slightly redefined them to align with the Research Fairness Initiative (RFI). Why RFI?

      Lavery & IJsselmuiden (2018) and other scholars highlighted the fact that structural disparities like unequal access to research funding among researchers and research institutions and differences in institutional capacity capable of supporting research partnerships shape the ethical character of research, presenting significant challenges to fair and equitable research partnerships between high-income countries (HICs) and low and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

      In response to these challenges, the Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) was created and pilot-tested with leading research institutions around the world to develop research and innovation system capacities in LMIC institutions through research collaboration and partnerships with HIC institutions (COHRED, 2018c).  As a reporting system and learning platform, the RFI increases understanding and sharing of innovations and best practices, while improving the fairness, efficiency, and impact of research collaborations with institutions in LMICs (COHRED, 2018c).  The RFI is thus geared towards supporting improved management of research partnerships, creating standards for fairness and collaboration between institutions and research partners, and building stronger global research systems capable of supporting health, equity, and development in LMICs (COHRED, 2018a).  Reporting on research fairness have also been positively associated with opportunities to measure the relationship between the quality of research partnerships and the impact of the research itself, thus creating a platform for program planning, design, management, and evaluation that could have significant impact on the ethics and management of research programs (Lavery & IJsselmuiden, 2018). 

      Lavery & IJsselmuiden (2018) emphasized that evaluative efforts of research fairness, therefore, need to clarify and articulate the factors influencing fairness in research partnerships, apply a methodology capable of operationalizing the concept of research fairness and through the collection of systematic empirical evidence, demonstrate how research partnerships add value for participating organizations.

      Based on the above premises, and reading through the CGIAR QoR4D Evaluation Guidelines, below are my reflections:  

      1. The three key evaluation questions recommended in the guideline are appropriate to evaluate the Quality of Science (QoS) following my reflection on the evaluation questions we used to evaluate the Nudging for Good project.
      2. The four interlinked dimensions – Research Design, Inputs, Processes, and Outputs are clear and useful since they capture a more exploratory, less standardized way of doing academic evaluations – evaluative inquiry.
      3. Training and development, as well as closer engagement between the relevant stakeholders, could be an appropriate starting point for CGIAR to support the roll-out of the Guideline.