My name is Frank Meintjies and I work as a consultant in South Africa. While most of my evaluation work has related to poverty reduction initiatives, I have also undertaken evaluation work on HIV and AIDS programmes.
Evaluation and strategic planning are so closely linked. Some organisations want to dive in to strategic planning without doing a good evaluation first. If you do that, it would be a mistake; it would be a classic case of ‘more haste less speed’.
If you evaluate first, you lay a solid foundation, on so many levels. The review will build a common base of understanding among those involved in crafting the new strategy. Participants will develop (or renew) a shared understanding of what they do; how and why they do what they do; what progress is being made; and, whether the work and objectives are still relevant to a fast-changing context.
Hot Tip: Make time to take a cool look at your organisation, its achievements, capabilities and impact, before plunging into strategic planning. Get information from beneficiaries and data from the field; this will serve as fuel for the creative thinking processes.
Tip: If you are under time pressure to hold a strategic planning, you may have to opt for a rapid evaluation. Such an evaluation is undertaken within a short time frame, but levels of validity and reliability are high enough to enable program staff to make confident, informed decisions. To learn more about the use of rapid evaluation, see the International Training & Education Center for Health’s resource at http://tinyurl.com/7huxffe to learn more about the use of rapid evaluation.
Lesson Learned: If you aren’t clear what the current state of play is then you are trying to look into the future from a muddy and clouded vantage point. Having a clear perspective of who and what your organisation is will sharpen your gaze as you examine the the future, with all its constraints and possibilities.
Lesson Learned: If you have undertaken a recent evaluation, or even if you undertake ongoing monitoring and evaluation, a major evaluation exercise before strategic planning will most likely be unnecessary. However, it will be good to revisit the key points that emerge out of such evaluations as a precursor to, or during, the strategic planning activity.
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