Eval4Action: How to Advance the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals as Evaluators
On April 20, 2021, I attended the Eval4Action North American Consultation to engage with evaluators from across the region and around the world about how we can accelerate the delivery of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by advocating for stronger evaluation capacities and evidence-based policies. This Eval4Action event was one of seven regional consultations that have taken place over the past year to promote influential evaluation and to shape regional evaluation action plans toward the seventeen SDGs. The North American Consultation included representatives from the American Evaluation Association (AEA), Canadian Evaluation Society (CES), and the Academia Nacional de Evaluadores de México (ACEVAL), in addition to several EvalYouth chapters. It was exciting to be a part of an international gathering of evaluators with such rich perspectives and experiences, and to see the emphasis placed on including young emerging evaluators as participants and leaders!
The SDGs promote sustainable development by recognizing how each goal is deeply intertwined with another - when talking about ending poverty we are also talking about improving health outcomes and quality education, when talking about climate action we are also talking about gender equity and peace, justice, and strong institutions. Thinking of our evaluation work in terms of the SDGs lifts the evaluation community out of our siloed efforts and projects and helps us see how the important work of our clients, and our partnerships with them, all tie into global shifts and trends. After all, tracking progress toward the SDGs involves an incredible amount of data, which means that collaboration and evaluation skills are in high demand!
2020 marked the start of the “decade of action” and the pandemic has, in many ways, increased the urgency toward keeping governments, leaders, and communities accountable for making progress toward the 2030 SDGs. The Eval4Action North American Consultation was a refreshing opportunity to engage in conversations about the action-oriented role we can play as evaluators! In breakout sessions, we talked about, for example, the importance of packaging evaluation findings into more accessible deliverables by moving beyond the lengthy evaluation report to more digestible summaries of data and evaluation insights (e.g., impact summaries, key findings infographics, presentations, etc.). Topics also included the value of a credentialing model with core evaluator competencies and the importance of building more buy-in around the evaluation and why it matters at a policy and government level. Speakers urged the evaluation community to practice “insurgent evaluation” (rather than extractive evaluation), especially when engaging with indigenous communities, and asked questions such as, “How do we use our collective energy as evaluators to bring us all forward? How do we make shifts at a systemic level?”
The conference ended with a provocative statement urging us to continue to shift away from thinking about developed versus developing countries and to move toward acknowledging the underprivileged and underserved within all countries and the ways we can better advocate in our roles as evaluators. This event is one of many more #Eval4Action events to come, and you can learn more about how to get involved here!