EPE TIG Week: Evaluation and the Battle of Our Time by Scott Chaplowe

Hello! I’m Scott Chaplowe, a member of AEA since 2003, and currently a Director of Evidence, Measurement and Evaluation at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), based in London.

Rad Wake-Up Call:

Greenhouse emissions far off track for global climate goals graph

The urgency of climate change and rapid environmental degradation presents an opportunity for action by evaluators on what is arguably the most pressing challenge we face not just as evaluators, but as inhabitants on this planet. This may sound like hyperbole, but the science is irrefutable, (see 2018 IPCC Report if you need convincing).

Currently, climate actions do not add up to keeping global warming below the 1.5° that is tantamount to avoiding catastrophic change (see CarbonBrief graph, 2019.11.26). Some warn of a “near-term collapse” in society if global warming continues under a business-as-usual scenario.  

Last year, more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world unequivocally declared a global climate emergency, and Europe became the first continent to declare a climate emergency, with over 1,400 local governments in 28 countries also making declarations.

Rad Lessons Learned:

"Ill be happy when this is over" cartoon
Used with permission

In short, we are beyond the reach of incrementalism, climate action has been delayed too long, and rapid, radical change is required. The “climate crisis” is the battle of our time. What does this mean for the evaluation community? The climate crisis is a “tragedy of the commons” that sits squarely within the AEA guiding principle, Common Good and Equity.  It is truly a complex, “wicked problem” that intersects with many evaluation thematics, TIGs, and the membership at large.

Calling it climate change is rather limiting; I would rather call it the everything change.  (Margaret Atwood)

As a profession in the business of assessment and solving problems, evaluation can play an important role in the essential shift to more environmentally responsible and risk-informed approach to policy, strategy and programming. Evaluators need to support the vital transition to more ecologically sustainable assessment, that considers environmental systems on equal par with human systems, as they are interdependent in the larger Earth system.

Rad Involvement & Resources:

The timing is ripe in the evaluation community as complexity and systems thinking in evaluation has made great strides in the past 20 years, reflected in collective efforts, such as Blue Marble Evaluation or the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus.

For those wishing to learn more about issues and opportunities in climate change evaluation, I highly recommend the website and listserv, Monitoring & Evaluation and Climate Change Interventions, and the and the CoP Resilience Measurement, Evidence and Learning Community.

For those interested in work, there are also a range of new opportunities for new, emerging and veteran evaluators in the  two main climate change workstreams: 1) climate change mitigation (to reduce global warming), and 2) climate adaptation (to moderate or avoid harm from global warming, AKA ‘resilience’).  See BetterEvaluation’s webpage for more resources on climate change and evaluation, and there are a range of organizations that have resources and career opportunities online.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EPE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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