Some Underexamined Aspects of Evaluation Capacity Building

Laura Leviton

"Evaluation is becoming a more familiar tool for organizations, but many people have trouble visualizing the eventual findings and their utility, especially beyond the accountability function." —Laura C. Leviton

The Issue:
Evaluation capacity building (ECB) has grown as a concept over the past decade among the evaluation field. This commentary by Laura Leviton examines ECB’s progress, posing questions about underexamined issues in ECB.

Key Findings:
Leviton poses questions to evaluators, organizations, and funders, including:

  • What is the value proposition that evaluation offers to organizations?
  • How does the value proposition for ECB differ from that of a time-limited evaluation project?
  • Once an organization begins to “think evaluatively,” what follows in the longer term?
  • Which comes first, ECB or organizational capacity?
  • Is lack of evaluation capacity the modern equivalent of resistance to evaluation?
  • Is an organization’s evaluation capacity lacking, or is the field of evaluation’s capacity lacking to adequately guide, teach, and practice?
  • Do funder’s demands distort evaluation capacity?
  • What is the funder’s role in identifying good training and technical assistance for ECB?

This commentary uses questions following the Socratic method to examine the impact of ECB. These questions are important to consider to help organizations better understand the role evaluation plays in their ability to accomplish their work.