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Learning to Learn: Harnessing External Evaluations to Build on Strengths, Enhance Effectiveness

ACF’s culture of evaluations helps improve its global impact by identifying common strengths, weaknesses and best practices
learning to learn

Action Against Hunger has a long harnessed internal and external reviews to determine how our programs stand up against measures of impact, sustainability, relevance, coherence, coverage, effectiveness and efficiency.

Our 2011 Learning Review reflects the culmination of a lengthy process carried out by Action Against Hunger’s Evaluation, Learning & Accountability Unit and builds on ACF’s previous efforts at assembling meta-evaluations to provide the organization with a sense of its program strengths and weaknesses.

ACF has a long harnessed external reviews to identify common strengths, weaknesses and areas needing improvement. But the 2011 review also identifies over a dozen best practices from some of the most unique, cutting-edge, and unorthodox humanitarian programs taking place today.

All of these previous efforts, however, struggled to fully make sense of the complex qualitative and quantitative information generated by external evaluations, hindered by the lack of clear, comparable information with which to measure progress from year to year. What was missing was a framework to collect and analyze data, something to guide the process and ensure that evaluations were useful and transformative.

In 2011, ACF addressed these issues by publishing Evaluation Policy & Guidelines, a publication that brought together three key ideas that are at the core of ACF’s vision for evaluation and learning.

  1. Evaluations are only valuable if they are used
  2. Evaluations must help us track progress
  3. Evaluations must be an integral part of organizational learning

The 2011 Learning Review reflects this multi-layered, but interconnected, approach to learning and evaluation, and offers an analysis of ACF’s organizational performance using internationally-recognized criteria to identify common strengths and weaknesses and highlight areas for future improvement.

But the real essence of this publication comes in the form of over a dozen best practices identified as part of the evaluations carried out in 2011—findings that offer insight into some of the most unique, cutting-edge and un-orthodox approaches being used successfully by ACF’s teams around the world. Together they remind us of our capacity to innovate and think outside of the proverbial box.

Publication: 2011 Learning Review

We hope you enjoy reading this review as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. But above all, we hope it helps answer persistent questions and raises new ones, creating an ongoing dialogue within ACF and beyond that is essential if we are to continue pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve.

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About Saul Guerrero

Saul Guerrero is ACF’s Senior Evaluation, Learning & Accountability Advisor. Based in London, Saul oversees ACF’s efforts to leverage external findings for improved performance around the world.

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About Our Evaluations

ACF’s external evaluations employ internationally-recognized criteria developed by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, i.e., DAC criteria:

IMPACT
Positive and negative, primary and secondary, mid- and long-term effects produced by an intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended.

SUSTAINABILITY
A measure of whether the benefits of an activity are likely to continue after donor funding has been withdrawn and project activities officially cease.

COHERENCE
The need to assess existing interventions, policies and strategies to ensure coordination and minimize duplication.

COVERAGE
The need to reach major population groups facing life-threatening suffering wherever they are.

RELEVANCE
A measure of whether an intervention’s objectives are aligned with local needs and priorities, as well as with donor policies, thus increasing ownership, accountability and cost-effectiveness.

EFFECTIVENESS
The extent to which an intervention’s objectives were achieved, taking into account their relative importance.