Hi. I am Anna Williams, a Senior Associate at Ross & Associates Environmental Consulting in Seattle, Washington. I have devoted the past 20 years to solving complex environmental-social issues. I use the words “environmental-social” here intentionally: Fundamentally both “environmental” and “social” challenges – and their solutions – are the same.
An independent evaluation I conducted for the US Environmental Protection Agency illustrates this point in two ways. The evaluation focused on a global voluntary effort to eliminate lead from fuel, the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles. Ten years ago over 100 countries still added lead to their fuel: today only six still do and they will likely (finally) be “unleaded” by 2013.
Adding lead to fuel caused a preventable public health catastrophe, cutting short more than a million lives each year, roughly the same number as die from malaria. Eliminating lead saves not only lives, but also over $2 trillion annually. (See Tsai and Hatfield, “Global Benefits from the Phaseout of Leaded Fuel” Journal of Environmental Health. December 2011.)
The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles utilizes strategies that apply across geographies and sectors. Its design strengths apply to other multi-stakeholder voluntary partnerships aimed at social change. (See: http://www.epa.gov/evaluate/pdf/pcfv-eval-design-principles.pdf) The lessons and insights were not environmental, per se.
For the past three years, I have evaluated policy advocacy efforts aimed at preventing global climate change. The data are compelling: climate change poses a profound human challenge which will worsen over time. Unless we rapidly curb global emissions of greenhouse gases, hundreds of millions of people will be affected by extreme weather events, reduced water supplies, failing crop yields, increased malnutrition, growing public health threats (e.g., vector-borne diseases), and economic instability. Those least responsible – and the most vulnerable – will be affected the most.
Thankfully, philanthropies, social service organizations, and public health agencies are coming to recognize these interconnections. They are starting to work together on prevention and adaptation. Evaluation across sectors, geographies, and traditions can play an important role in averting and addressing this global challenge.
Lesson learned: “Environmental” evaluation, including the issues, methods, and insights gained, is not “different.” We are all in this together and we can learn from each other.
Rad Resource: www.climate-eval.org, an online platform of the climate evaluation community of practice
Rad Resource: Climate and Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rad Resource: Climate Change and Human Health from the World Health Organization
Rad Resource: Climate Change Department from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation Week with our colleagues in AEA’s 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.