• CGIAR through the Independent Advisory and Evaluation Services emphasizes the crucial role of evaluation platforms in promoting knowledge sharing and facilitating information diffusion for inclusive learning and evaluations in the agricultural sector
  • Discussions with IRRI explored how evaluative evidence can further strengthen adaptive management and mechanisms for decision-making concerning institute operations, the AMD Initiative, and the International Rice Genebank
  • Participation in the Asia Pacific Evaluation Association conference highlighted the importance of national evaluation policies and systems as guiding frameworks and functional systems to enhance the use of evaluations in decision-making processes

Strengthening the evaluation practice and culture at OneCG: Continuing collaboration between the Evaluation Function at IAES, the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas, and IRRI

On December 5-7th, 2023, Svetlana Negroustoueva, evaluation function lead at the CGIAR Independent Advisory and Evaluation Services (IAES), visited Manila with the dual purpose of engaging with the Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning, and Impact Assessment (MELIA) Team of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and attending the 4th evaluation conference of the Asia Pacific Evaluation Association (APEA). The engagement visits are primarily aimed at reinforcing evaluation practices and culture fostering critical collaborations with key CGIAR centers, initiatives, and stakeholders in the region.

Engagement with the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) leadership, MELIA Team, and project implementers

IRRI’s MELIA Team and the ongoing evaluability assessment colleagues of the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas (AMD) organized Ms. Negroustoueva’s visit. IRRI’s MELIA Team has been leading the monitoring and evaluation functions and facilitating the adaptive management of the AMD Initiative. Adaptive management has become increasingly relevant in response to rapidly changing project implementation contexts such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Together with the MELIA Team, Svetlana paid a courtesy visit to the IRRI’s Chief of Staff, Alvin James Poncin, and IRRI’s Interim Director General, Ajay Kohli. The discussions centered on the evaluations at the CGIAR, the specific work of the evaluation function IAES, IRRI’s current MELIA setup and plans for expanding its function within the institution, and the M&E and evaluative learning role in improving organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency. The discussion also highlighted and reinforced possible areas of collaboration between the IAES and IRRI to further strengthen adaptive management and mechanisms to enhance the use of evaluative evidence for decision-making.

The MELIA Team under IRRI’s Transformative Policies and Investments (TPI) Unit also engaged with Svetlana about its continuing efforts to advance the M&E practice at department, institute, and Initiative levels. Guided by the Impact-Oriented Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (IOMEL) along with OneCG M&E and evaluation policy and guidelines (2022), the team highlighted IOMEL’s critical role and integration with various bilateral projects, platforms, and particularly with the AMD Initiative to generate science-based evidence to facilitate learning towards adaptive management and accountability.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss the ongoing evaluability assessment (EA) of the AMD Initiative (TORs). The CGIAR Initiative is one of four Regional Integrated Initiatives (RII) being assessed for its evaluability by the evaluation function of CGIAR. The purpose of the above-mentioned EA, as well as the associated processes and preparations needed, were shared with the entire TPI unit.

Lastly, Svetlana presented the results and lessons drawn from the almost completed “Evaluation of the CGIAR Genebank Platform” (published in 2024) to IRRI’s Genebank team. The pre-final evaluation recommendations were further validated during the discussion by the IRRI’s genebank as key stakeholders in the evaluation. To appreciate more how genebanks work, she visited the facilities of the International Rice Genebank together with the MELIA Team and key genebank scientists and staff. The processes in managing the genebank, its purpose and role in maintaining genetic diversity in rice and facilitating improved productivity globally, and other operational details were shared among the visitors.

OneCG’s evaluation practices put forth at the 4th APEA Conference in Manila

With the theme “Future of Evaluation: Leveraging Partnerships for Equitable Development in Asia Pacific,” the 4th Asia Pacific Evaluation Association (APEA) Conference aimed to promote the greater use of evaluation — contributing positively to the achievement of national development goals and Sustainable Development Goals in Asia Pacific Region. At the event in Manila, Philippines, Svetlana engaged twice: on the results of utilizing engagement platforms, and its reflections from the Evaluability Assessment (EA) of the AMD Initiative (see Conference Report).

The work of the evaluation function under IAES on ensuring participatory and inclusive evaluation was highlighted under Session 4 of the Conference. Framed by the theme “Engaging Communities: Evaluation to Ensure No One is Left Behind in Development”, the session explored how evaluators value equity and involve physical and virtual communities in evaluations for transformative change. Ms. Negroustoueva emphasized the crucial role of platforms like EvalForward in promoting knowledge sharing and facilitating information diffusion for inclusive learning and evaluations in the agricultural sector. She further stressed the importance of communities of practice and the need to evaluate them for learning and accountability.

Session 8 of the Conference entitled “Experiences from Using Evaluation Methodologies” highlighted different evaluation methods adopted by various institutions including the CGIAR. The processes are done, nature of engagements, and learnings from the ongoing EA of the AMD Initiative were co-presented by Svetlana Negroustoueva and Justin Dela Rueda representing both IRRI and the AMD Initiative.

Their presentation tackled the significance of EAs within the CGIAR research and initiative portfolio, particularly focusing on AMD as an RII. It outlined the purpose of the EA, which is to ensure the overall preparedness for evaluations, including supporting the initiative's leadership in considering resources for MELIA towards adaptive management for greater efficiency, accountability, and transparency.

The presentation also touched upon the integration of the IRRI MELIA Team into the Initiative management and decision-making reflecting on the early learnings from the EA process, shedding light on the strengthening of the Theory of Changes (ToCs) and the comprehensive MEL plans to ultimately provide foundations for a culture of generating evidence of results for learning. Mr. Dela Rueda cited that “the successful integration of the MELIA work into the Initiative management can mainly be attributed to the strong support from the Initiative Lead and cooperation of implementers”.

Key takeaways from the IAES engagement visits

The participation in the 2023 APEA conference and the visit to IRRI provided several learning takeaways for CGIAR colleagues. First, the significance of young and emerging evaluators and mid-career scientists in the CGIAR context, emphasizing the value they bring to the evaluation processes was highlighted. Additionally, the importance of National Evaluation Policies and Systems (NEPS) as guiding frameworks and functional systems to enhance the use of evaluations in decision-making processes, particularly within the Asia Pacific Regional Evaluation Strategy, was emphasized. (see more in the report)

IRRI manifested interest in learning from CGIAR's experience in evaluability assessments (EAs), as well as aligning the agenda timelines of the 2030 Research Strategy of CGIAR and the SDGs to optimize the evaluation of interventions and impacts was welcomed by evaluation function lead Svetlana. Moreover, the IRRI’s organizational need and the MELIA team's interest in exploring and leveraging the potential of the EvalForward community of practice, which CGIAR’s evaluation office co-founded in 2018, was encouraged for learning and contributing to a unique R4D perspective.

Lastly, several potential collaborations between the IAES and IRRI evaluation function along with the AMD Initiative could be explored to fully maximize shared interests in using M&E to improve the way they do things at different levels. The growing demand of stakeholders, specifically from donors for transparency of results’ achievement and accountability, shall not be neglected and should instead be answered with appropriate and collaborative actions guided by internationally accepted guidance and principles in development practice.

Originally published by the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas.