The importance of learning from project evaluations can’t be over-emphasised

Improve International

By Susan Davis, Executive Director, Improve International

You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. You can do an evaluation but you cannot make us think.

The good news is there is a proliferation of evaluation databases. Donors like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and implementing organizations like CARE and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are publishing evaluation reports online.  This gets them off people’s desks and into the world. (Update: another handy link to multilateral development bank evaluation groups and their reports is here.)

But is anyone learning from them? Evaluations and other reports from many years ago show, for example:

  • It has become overwhelmingly clear from both research and field observations (Warford and Saunders, 1976; Elmendorf, 1978; Burton, 1979) that the main obstacle in the use and  maintenance of improved water and sanitation…

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