Here you can find an introduction to monitoring, evaluation and learning in the context of youth organisations and peacebuilding. This introduction will help you to have a first understanding of the topic or a recap if you are already familiar with it.
Evaluation: a basic definition
Evaluation is the act of appraising, assessing or valuing something. Though we may not realise it, we do it all the time in our daily activities, we comment on what we like, what we find effective or frustrating.
In this guide, it refers broadly to the systematic gathering of information to help organisations reflect about the value of their activities. Are activities useful? Of quality? Meaningful? Effective? What do young people learn through them?
Evaluation has two main purposes:
- Learning to improve practice, that is, reflecting on what happened and incorporating lessons learned to new activities. For example, this can be a team meeting reflection or doing a survey to find out about the opinions of those involved in an activity.
- Accountability, that is, informing others and answering questions about the activities implemented. For example, reporting or explaining results in a meeting with relevant stakeholders. Accountability is needed to assess the degree to which organisations follow up on their commitments and values.
The scope of evaluation: What do we evaluate?
Evaluation can focus on different aspects of the activities. It can focus on degree of participants’ satisfaction with an activity, it can focus on the individual learning process or on the various effects the activities have in the communities where they take place. The scope of evaluation is to be decided by those that evaluate. You decide! Evaluation can assess activities in terms of their effectiveness, their efficiency and their ethics. In the next sections, we explore what these concepts are about.
Is about producing desired outcomes/effects with a minimum of resources (i.e. financial, human).
Effectiveness. What do we mean by “results”?
Evaluation can assess the results of an activity against pre-set goals. Or in other words, to what extent have those goals been achieved?
The definition of results depends on the type of goals set. These can include different types of effects or changes in the social reality.
- Outputs: new activities, projects and services that are implemented or delivered as planned. There are as many examples of outputs as different type of activities, projects or services (seminars, training courses, counseling sessions, publications, etc.).
- Outcomes: actual changes as a result or consequence of any output. Examples are changes in attitudes, like being more open to the ideas of others, or developed skills, like conflict transformation, cultural expression or digital competence.
- Impact: sustainable changes in social reality that can be reasonably attributed reached outcomes. An examples of impact can be the reduction of violence in particular setting or community.
Results are related to the achievement of cultures of peace and respect for human rights.
In youth peace work, evaluation looks at effects in terms of changes at all levels of social reality, including individual, group and societal levels that contribute to peace. One of the biggest challenges for evaluation is to attribute more clearly and directly the desired effects to the planned actions. Assessment is difficult because many factors are at play, influencing violent attitudes and behaviors. Many of these factors are beyond the direct control of our organisations, for example, the influence of violent armed conflicts or economic challenges. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for evaluation is to attribute more or less clearly and directly the desired effects to the planned actions.
Evaluation pre-supposes there is a logical link between our efforts and how these affect social reality. This is often referred to as the “impact chain” and underlies project’s planning and design. It is also called the “theory of change”. This means our basic explanations and assumptions of how reality works and how we think our efforts may change that reality positively. Articulating a theory of change offers a clearer picture of the intended result from an action and explains how activities and results are connected with each other.
You can read more about…
- Theories of change in Peacebuilding with Impact: Defining Theories of Change – CARE International, 2012
- Outcome Harvesting in Doing Things Differently: Rethinking monitoring and evaluation to understand change – Saferworld
- Outcome Mapping in the online Outcome Mapping Learning Community
- Impact Evaluation in Evaluating Impacts of Peacebuilding Interventions. Approaches and methods, challenges and considerations – Saferworld, CDA, Search for Common Ground – 2014
What will tell me if I am achieving my goals? Indicators!
Indicators are tangible and measurable markers that visualise results at all these levels. They help to assess the progress towards the achievement of the expected results. There are two main types of indicators: quantitative (i.e. number of participants, percentage of young people with conflict resolution skills) and qualitative (i.e. presence of an attitude of dialogue, quality of interactions).
Ethical dimensions: Accountability and Responsibility
Our actions may have intended and unintended negative effects. Responsible youth peace work should be aware of possible negative effects and risks. As a general principle, any work involving (young) people should consider their well-being and safety as a central concern. Practical tools have been developed in the context of peace and development work to help organisations assess possible risks and negative effects. One of them is called the “Do No Harm” framework. It is a tool of conflict analysis and risks mitigation. Learn more about “Do No Harm misunderstandings”
You can read more about…
- Do No Harm Framework in From Principle to Practice A User’s Guide to Do No Harm – Marshall, W. – 2015
Learning in youth organisations: what´s the added value?
Learning means reflection on our observations and experiences by drawing lessons and improving our next actions. A lot of learning happens in youth organisations using non-formal education methods and experiential learning. Nevertheless, it happens in very special ways and thus, we argue that youth organisations are exceptional learning organisations.Through youth work, youth engage in intense peer-to-peer learning processes, they are exposed to new ideas and experiences. Youth-led activities tend to be effective as young people know better the realities of their peers, their language codes and needs, and thus, more appropriate and relevant activities can be organised. Youth-led activities build on the positive energy and creativity of youth. Their time-availability allows for intense engagement. Therefore, lots of learning happens in short-periods of time. Last but not least, changes in attitudes and behaviour have an enormous impact at a young age. Young people’s choices and attitudes towards learning may be influenced positively and have long-lasting and multiplying effects in the long term.At the same time, these opportunities are often not harnessed due to lack of proper planning, high-turnover of staff and poor knowledge transfer.
You can read more about…
- Educational Evaluation in Youth Work (T-kit 10) – Council of Europe – 2007
- What is good youth peace work? A guide for evaluation – UNOY Peacebuilders – 2005
- Monitoring, Evaluation Accountability and Learning (online course) – Save the Children – 2009
Find here more resources related to basic concepts of monitoring, evaluation and learning.