Project Evaluation: Making Investments Succeed

Accountability. Yes, we’d all like to know who’s accountable.

But that’s a funny word, isn’t it?

After all, isn’t responsibility the same thing?

Or as some smart ass wisely put it, ‘accountability is what’s left when you subtract responsibility’.

(That smart ass is Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?)

There is a time when an individual project, a program or a policy decision (company or government) has to be evaluated.

Evaluations ensure that we are going where we intended to go (and if not, help correct the drift.)

Types of Evaluations

There are two main types of evaluations:

  1. Formative and
  2. Summative.

To put it simply, when the chef tastes the soup, it’s formative. When the customer does the same, it’s summative.

Or we could differentiate them by purpose:

  1. Documentation and control (Summative)
  2. Improving performance (Formative).

Evaluation and Project Lifecycle

Evaluation can take on various roles during the project lifecycle.

1> Appraisal.

This is at an early stage of the project. A decision whether or not to finance the endeavour is taken at this stage.

A ‘go or no go’ decision is the outcome.

2> Monitoring.

3> Interim evaluation.

4> End evaluation.

Focuses on project outputs in terms of quality, timing and cost but also the extent to which objectives have been met.

5> Ex post evaluation.

Used to determine long-term effects. Usually ignored in most projects.

There exist two approaches to project evaluation.

1> Goal model.

Simply put, this assesses the project effects against its professed objectives.

2> Process model.

Assesses the way the project functions and its consequences on the wider world.

How do you judge the quality of an evaluation?

The three commonly used criteria are:

Credibility (The calibre of the evaluators)

Impartiality and independence (conflicts of interests should be avoided)

Cost effectiveness. (An evaluation cannot cost more than its benefits)

Measures of success

Five criteria provide a comprehensive yet simple picture of the status of a project.

  1. Efficiency
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Impact
  4. Relevance
  5. Sustainability

Efficiency measures the productivity of the implementation process.

Effectiveness is the extent to which the objective of the project has been met.

Impact is the changes and effects caused by the project (-ve and +ve) on its stakeholders.

Relevance is whether the world has moved on since. Are the user needs and requirements the same? Or is a fresh project(s ) called for?

Sustainability is whether the project and its benefits can be maintained after project conclusion. The project corpus cannot provide further funding for its continued running.

(Source: Project Evaluation: Making Investments Succeed — Knut Samset)