UN invites dean to talk about evaluating development

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

mike-trevisanPULLMAN, Wash. – College of Education dean Mike Trevisan will speak to the United Nations in New York as part of a workshop today through Saturday related to the U.N.’s new sustainable development goals.

The 17 goals (http://www.unfpa.org/sdg), aimed at transforming the world over the next 15 years, were unanimously adopted in late September by the 193 member states of the U.N. The goals include things such as no poverty, no hunger, clean water and climate action. They will be the focus for the U.N. 2016-2030, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Trevisan was specifically asked to speak to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which is in charge of helping women and young people lead healthy and productive lives. The global goals directly tackled by the UNFPA include health, education and gender equity.

Trevisan was asked to speak because of the book “Evaluability Assessment: Improving Evaluation Quality and Use” (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/evaluability-assessment/book240728), which he co-wrote with Tamara Walser from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Evaluability assessment (EA) got its start in the 1970s as an activity to determine if a program was ready for outcome evaluation, which is the measurement of change that has occurred as a result of a program. Trevisan and Walser’s book was the first in 25 years to give the topic an up-to-date treatment, which was vital since EA has evolved into an activity that can be used at any point in a program’s lifecycle, including planning and implementation.

That means EA results lead to better – and more accurate – decisions about the feasibility and best approaches of a program’s further evaluation. EA increases understanding of program culture, context and complexity, builds evaluation capacity and builds buy-in for further evaluation.

“Evaluability assessment can provide better information to fill in gaps between program theory and reality,” Trevisan said. “At the same time, there continues to be ambiguity and uncertainty about evaluability assessment, so we’ll use the workshop to focus on a straightforward approach that bridges old and new evaluability assessment models, emphasizing stakeholder involvement and evaluation use.”

Trevisan said one key to new EA models is interdisciplinary appeal.

“The new goals are central to the revised U.N. strategic plan, and any of the programs and initiatives designed to help meet these goals can be strengthened through appropriate application of EA,” he said.

Trevisan and Walser will teach essential elements of EA and give a variety of case examples that illustrate its features, issues and potential solutions. Participants will engage in exercises and discussion to practice implementing the EA model. The goals include getting participants to work collaboratively to develop EA plans for UNFPA projects.