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Measurement is not enough

A new briefing from EVALSDGs, IIED, and Evalpartners argues that evaluation will be crucial to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals, and that this means more than just measuring progress on individual indicators.

Measuring will not be enough to assess progress on the SDGs, photo: Jamie via flickr.com, creative commons licence

Follow-up and review are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – at international, regional and national levels. But if these processes are to be effective, they must take a critical approach to identifying where policies and programmes have made progress and properly evaluate what works.

This is the key message in a new briefing by IIED and EVALSDGs* (Evaluation – adding Value and Learning to the SDGs), Evaluation: a crucial ingredient for SDG success, which identifies six key aspects to evaluation:

  • Measurement is not enough. While global targets and indicators form an important part of the 2030 Agenda, monitoring must be accompanied by evaluation that addresses the complexity of the SDGs, and inform policies at the national and sub/national levels.
  • Evaluation addresses complexity. The SDGs inter-connect in different, often context-dependent ways. Evaluation can help to analyse this complexity, drawing on different methodologies, including system thinking and complexity science.
  • Evaluative thinking allows informed choices. This means governments, and others, will be able to analyse the data critically and know whether they are doing the right thing.
  • National policy evaluation is essential. Implementing the SDGs will involve sectoral, thematic and holistic policies and governments will need to understand how these policies interact and whether they are delivering what was intended.
  • Evaluation builds solid evidence for claims, providing the evidence and analysis to understand whether a policy or intervention has worked, for whom and under what circumstances.
  • Building capacity for evaluation is crucial, including developing the ability of individuals and institutions to think critically, to use data effectively and to capture and use the knowledge gained from the evaluation processes. 

Evaluation can help answer ‘why’ targets have or have not been achieved, the briefing argues, and can help identify what can be done to improve the success of future initiatives.

The full briefing is available for download (free of charge) from http://pubs.iied.org/17357IIED.html?c=govern. This is the first in a planned series which will be addressing key themes to use evaluation for realising the SDGs


*EVALSDGs is a network of policymakers, institutions and practitioners advocating for the integration of evaluation initiatives into national, regional and global SDG feedback and review systems. They are part of the EvalPartners global partnership.