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OL-ECB TIG Week: The role of translating OECD/DAC guidance in national evaluation capacity development (NECD): Evidence from China and Mongolia by Xin Xin Yang

Hello, I am Xin Xin Yang, a Multi-Country Evaluation Specialist in the East Asia and Pacific Region of UNICEF. In this blog, I will illustrate how translating international evaluation guidance, such as the OECD/DAC evaluation criteria and glossary, can be a strategic intervention to enhance national evaluation capacity. I will draw on the experiences of China and Mongolia, where evaluation is a relatively new and emerging practice.

In China, the translation of the OECD/DAC criteria occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, when UNICEF hired a Chinese evaluation team of university scholars and researchers to conduct an evaluation of early child development. The national evaluators faced a challenge in applying the international evaluation norms and standards, such as the OECD/DAC criteria and the UNEG standards, which they were not familiar with or appreciated. UNICEF decided to address this challenge by translating the OECD document Better Criteria for Better Evaluation for internal use. Later, the translation was officially launched by OECD during the Asia Evaluation Week in 2020. In early 2024, UNICEF also translated the OECD glossary.

In Mongolia, the translation of the OECD documents was an organic response from the Mongolian Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPE) to the OECD’s call for the translation of the Better Criteria for Better Evaluation. This translation effort led to a collaboration platform between the government Cabinet Secretariat, the MERIT Programme (funded by the Canadian Government), and the Mongolian Evaluation Association, to collectively advance the national evaluation agenda. To sustain the momentum, UNICEF engaged these key government and VOPE actors to participate in its two flagship NECD training initiatives.

The two cases of China and Mongolia demonstrate that development partners need to respond to local needs and seize the opportunities in the national contexts. Translating the OECD/DAC evaluation criteria and glossary is a quick win that can have a lasting impact on national evaluation actors. However, translation is not sufficient. Evaluation is a learning-by-doing process. It is essential to create practical opportunities for the national actors to apply the OECD/DAC criteria, either by managing or conducting evaluations, in a context-sensitive and purposeful way.

Translation also cannot be the only way to enhance national evaluation capacity. Other complementary initiatives are needed to sustain the momentum. For example, UNICEF has engaged emerging evaluation partners to its two intermediate-level certification programmes in evaluation: the Intermediate Moderated Programme for Evaluation Systems’ Strengthening (IMPrESS) and the Executive Course for Evaluation Leaders (ExCEL). These global NECD initiatives bring together government officials, VOPEs, and academia to foster culture, capacity, and network among evaluation managers and practitioners around the world.

NECD is a long-term endeavor that requires strategic identification of needs and intentions. Quick wins, such as translation, can be effective entry points, but they need to be followed by other actions. The availability and accessibility of the OECD standards and guidance, along with the improved capacity of both the demand and supply sides of the evaluation, will enhance the likelihood of transforming the evaluation landscape in a country.

I hope this blog post has provided some useful insights and lessons for those who are interested in or involved in national evaluation capacity development. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNICEF.  I welcome your comments and feedback. Thank you for reading.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our OL-ECB 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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