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Ensuring an effective evaluation process: Reflections from the evaluation of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

It is important for evaluators to remain objective and independent. In our experience at Itad, it is equally important this is not interpreted as ‘separate’ and ‘detached’ if evaluation results are to be used for learning and adaptation. Having in place clear learning objectives, appropriate governance arrangements and no conflicts of interest within the evaluation team are central to achieving this. In this blog, to help commissioners of other evaluations ensure an effective evaluation process, I reflect on some of the factors which helped make our evaluation of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) a success.


Itad recently concluded an evaluation of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) – an evaluation which I have led over the last two years. GPSDD was established in 2015 with the core objective of mobilising the data revolution in support of both monitoring, and achieving, the SDGs.


The UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG) had called for the creation of the partnership in their 2013 report A World that Counts. The partnership began – and continues to operate – as an open, collaborative, global network of governments, civil society, and the private sector. Membership has grown from approximately 50 organisations at the launch in 2015, to over 300 at the time of writing.

Itad was commissioned by GPSDD to evaluate the extent to which, and how, the partnership had contributed to its stated outcomes and goals.

Why the evaluation process was effective

For evaluation results to have the greatest utility possible, it is crucial for there to be effective engagement between the evaluation team and the evaluand.

Working with GPSDD, we found the following factors to be the most important in ensuring an effective evaluation process:

  • An open, engaging and collaborative approach: From the outset, despite natural feelings of apprehension, the GPSDD Secretariat approached the evaluation as a learning opportunity. This was underpinned by the evaluation’s strongly formative focus and the inclusion of an extended design phase which focussed on ensuring the necessary conditions were in place to successfully evaluate GPSDD. This provided an opportunity to develop effective relationships and a shared understanding of purpose. As Claire Melamed, CEO of GPSDD, points out: “It was pretty nerve-racking at the beginning… but in hindsight, it was absolutely worth it”.
  • A phased and sequenced timeline: Ensuring that sufficient time could be dedicated to each phase of the evaluation, incorporating regular updates, feedback and adaptations, was another important factor. The Secretariat decided to conduct the evaluation over two phases consisting of an extended design phase beginning in September 2018, and the full evaluation phase beginning a year later. This helped ensure the Secretariat had time to respond to feedback made during the extended design phase (e.g. related to the GPSDD theory of change) and enabled the evaluation team to employ an iterative approach to data collection and analysis.
  • Co-creating recommendations: As an evaluator, I understand the value which co-creation can add, though it is important this doesn’t simply shift responsibility for identifying recommendations onto the evaluand. For the GPSDD evaluation, we included a set of recommendations in the draft evaluation report after which we critically reviewed and adjusted these in collaboration with the Secretariat senior management team. This process resulted in a set of fully actionable recommendations, grouped within three inter-linked clusters that reflected the main themes which emerged from the evaluation.

Digital technology for MEL

Whilst the GPSDD evaluation provides a good example of the way Itad effectively works with partners, its focus also aligns strongly with our renewed emphasis on realising the potential of digital technology for MEL. As an organisation, Itad resonates strongly with the objectives set out by GPSDD.

Innovation and technology are part of our history. From the very start we harnessed the power of computing to gather and analyse monitoring data; so much so that the “IT” of Itad once stood for information technology. We want to use digital technology to provide evidence and insights that inform the best use of resources for international development and have launched a range of digital service offerings to help achieve this.


Read the final report on our website and the management response on GPSDD’s. Within the response, GPSDD sets out its own reflections against the evaluation conclusions and what actions it intends to take or is currently taking, in response to the evaluation recommendations.

I’d like to thank the GPSDD Secretariat and the representatives of GPSDD funders and partners, and other stakeholders with whom members of the evaluation team spoke, for giving their time and insights freely during the evaluation.