The Power of Evaluation:
A Framework for Success in Achieving the SDGs

Deborah Rugg, PhD

Leaders from all sectors—from government officials and legislators to UN senior officials to private-sector organizations—have to show that their policies are making a difference for the citizens they are trying to reach and serve. Evaluation offers a systematic way to understand issues and perspectives, and uses evidence to explore the implications of different types of strategies and actions.

This workshop will provide an introductory understanding of:

  • The difference between project-based performance evaluation and “systems- thinking” evaluation approaches.
  • How evaluation turns “facts” into a “story,” and “story” into a “compelling argument.”
  • The essential role of evaluation in determining impact and learning how and why things work or don’t work, and ways to improve.

Michelle Bligh, PhD

As an area of study, leadership is a very complicated and elusive subject to understand and explain, making it ideally suited to approach from different disciplines and perspectives. Leadership is more than just a collection of tools and tips, or even skills and competencies; the essence of an individual’s leadership is fundamentally shaped by her or his values, philosophies, and beliefs.

In this workshop, we will examine:

  • The leadership labyrinth—the various challenges and opportunities that uniquely face each individual rooted in gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, citizenship, ability, and experience.
  • How to define effective leadership, and how can you develop your identity both as a leader and as a proactive follower.
  • How to develop inclusive leadership abilities to respond to the new challenges and changing demands of a global world.
  • What successful 21st-century leadership looks like, drawing on theories of philosophy and ethics, charismatic and transformational leadership, and followership.

Evaluation as a Leadership Function

Michael Quinn Patton, PhD

Critical evaluative thinking involves strategic engagement, contextual analysis, situational responsiveness, understanding complex dynamic systems, questioning assumptions, grounding action in evidence, and distinguishing opinions from findings. Evaluative thinking is the foundation for effective leadership that is reality-testing, results-oriented, and learning-focused. Effective leaders have a thirst for knowledge, are not afraid to find out what’s really going on, and act based on rigorous strategic analysis.

This workshop will cover the four functions of effective leadership:

  • Creating and nurturing a results-oriented, reality-testing, learning-focused culture.
  • Leading in deciding what outcomes to commit to and hold yourselves accountable for.
  • Making the measurement of outcomes thoughtful, meaningful, and credible.
  • Using the results—and modeling for others the serious use of results.

Leadership for Transformative Change in the SDG Era

Michael Quinn Patton, PhD

We inhabit a world in which an increasing sense of urgency calls for transformational change. The compelling vision represented by the SDGs, the latest data on accelerating climate change, and the global problems that transcend national borders are challenges that require new ways of thinking, acting, and evaluating. Slow, incremental change is not sufficient.

But how do we evaluate change? Evaluators are now involved at the front end, participating in the design of initiatives, bringing to bear accumulated knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, and ensuring that evaluative thinking is built in from the beginning.

This workshop will examine:

  • Program context (e.g., stakeholders, politics, theories of change).
  • Dimensions of transformative change that constitute an evaluation framework.

Differences in Evaluation Agendas Between the Global South and North in the SDG Era

Zenda Ofir, PhD

“Developed” is no longer seen as a stage that has been reached by some countries and that other countries should strive to achieve. The 2030 Agenda emphasizes a more complex reality: All countries share responsibility for development. They do so within the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and the need to respect different national realities, priorities, capacities and levels of development. Yet stark differences remain between the Global South and the Global North. This situation compels us to examine the implications for national development as well as evaluation agendas. Past mistakes have to be avoided, and issues such as development trajectories, policy coherence, the role of culture, resilience, and sustainability need to be considered.

This session will therefore consider the following, with special reference to the Global South:

  • Imperatives for national evaluation agendas.
  • Innovation in practice: What would evaluation have looked like if invented “here”?
  • Implications for our evaluation criteria and questions.

Equity and Responsiveness in Monitoring and Evaluation

Katrina Bledsoe, PhD

Monitoring and evaluation are key components to understanding the unique factors that influence policies, programs, governments, and societies. They are also tools that can be used to ensure equity and cultural responsiveness. Equitable and responsive evaluation focuses on who should be involved in decision-making; what questions should be asked and understanding how these questions are contextually grounded; what indicators are most representative of the context; what kinds of data will ensure a more accurate assessment; and in what manner data should be analyzed to enable all voices to be heard.

This workshop will examine:

  • What is meant by equity and responsiveness.
  • Developing questions with an eye towards equity.
  • Developing context-appropriate indicators of progress and success.
  • Collecting and analyzing data so that it is representative of the myriad of groups that policies and programs cover.
  • Becoming a savvy consumer of evaluation.

Framing the Right Questions and Picking the Right Approach:
An Overview

Tarek Azzam, PhD

Every time we try something new, we often ask ourselves, “Is it better? What makes it good? What is its value? What impact is it having?” These are common questions that are often used to evaluate anything, from small interventions to large-scale policies. The identification of the most important questions in evaluation is the most important first step in the design process, because it forms the foundation of a useful, credible, and rigorous evaluation. It is important to make sure the questions are driving the choice of methods, and not the other way around.

Once questions have been identified then the evaluation must integrate three facets that impact the design:

  • Program context (e.g., stakeholders, politics, maturity of the program, complexity of the program, etc.);
  • Evaluators (e.g., level of expertise, theoretical perspectives, competency, etc.);
  • Evaluation methods (e.g., type of design, interviews, surveys, case studies, RCTs, etc.).

Behind the Scenes:
Updates From UN Agency Evaluation Units

UN Agency Representatives

This session provides the latest insights on the conducting of evaluations globally and at the country level by key units among the UN agencies in New York. Discussions will include the latest findings of what is and isn’t working under the SDG framework as well as challenges these agencies are facing. In addition, this session incorporates opportunities for question and answer with representatives from United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), and United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (UN OIOS).

An Introduction to Social Impact Measurement:
The Role of Evaluation in Private-Sector Organizations with Social Missions

John Gargani, PhD

Increasingly, private-sector companies are working to advance the public good. They may be called social enterprises, impact investors, or sustainable corporations. This is a critical trend—the success of the SDGs and the Paris agreement on climate change depends heavily on the participation of the private sector. However, evaluation of their efforts remains a challenge. Companies often engage in social impact measurement, a form of evaluation that incorporates tools, approaches, and theories adapted from finance and management.

In this workshop, our discussion will be grounded in theories and frameworks that will help you understand the role of evaluation in this important area. We’ll learn about:

  • The variety of private-sector actors with social missions, and the contexts in which they work.
  • The concept of impact, how it varies, and its relationship to evaluation methods.
  • Common standards and frameworks for measuring impact.
  • Methods that combine financial analysis and impact measurement, such as social return, on investment.
  • Corporate impact reports and how to interpret them.

Follow-Up Project

This project will be introduced to participants at the end of the online segment and then defined during the New York segment. The objective of the project, which will include a month of individualized coaching and mentoring from program faculty and moderators, is to apply the knowledge and skills gained through the training. Projects might include developing terms of reference for evaluating programs related to the SDGs, or developing and implementing an action plan to help a country evaluate progress toward SDGs.