Like monitoring, evaluating can be both formal at particular stages of a process and/or informal ‘as you go’. Evaluation can be qualitative and/or quantitative and is driven by a need to develop knowledge (e.g. about learning or the effectiveness of an intervention), and/or by a need for accountability (e.g. regarding how resources have been used and whether a project has achieved what it set out to do). Evaluation can apply to outputs, outcomes and processes.
Evaluation of a process, product or service is often portrayed as a systematic determination of merit, worth and significance against stated objectives, using set criteria. This systematic approach tends to be a ‘first order’ process focusing on the subject in hand rather than a second order process that also takes a wider systemic view. In AgriLink, we purposefully combined reflexive monitoring with ‘systemic evaluation’ meaning evaluation that is informed by systems thinking, i.e. a process that involves engaging with multiple perspectives, recognising and understanding inter-relationships, and reflecting on boundary judgements.
Systemic evaluation is often about making a judgement about whether something is on track or not in a way that takes account of its context.