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CIDA Learns: Lessons from Evaluations 2011-2012

The Canadian International Development Agency is pleased to present its first CIDA Learns: Lessons from Evaluations 2011-2012 report, which contributes to the Agency's efforts to improve the dissemination and use of evaluation knowledge both within and outside the Agency.

Lessons drawn from evaluations can improve understanding of what constitutes good development, and what works and what does not, for both CIDA staff and partners who design and implement international development projects. Incorporating these lessons into our operations will also give Canadian taxpayers better value for their tax dollars.

This first report presents a set of key lessons distilled from a sample of evaluation reports completed in 2011-2012 organized according to themes that emerged from our review. Setting a one-year review time frame ensures our information is new and allows us to provide timely feedback to CIDA.

For this report, we reviewed 19 evaluations (each summarized in the annex) covering a broad range of CIDA programs and projects: 12 covering Geographic Programs Branch, 4 covering Multilateral and Global Programs Branch, 2 covering Partnerships with Canadians Branch, and the Agency-wide Review of Evidence of the Effectiveness of CIDA's Grants and Contributions. We analyzed the evaluations to identify lessons, and further analyzed the lessons to identify the most relevant factors for CIDA. Focus group discussions helped pinpoint relevant issues.

All Government of Canada departments, including CIDA, are required to evaluate all direct program spending over a five-year period. For CIDA, this means evaluating some $15 billion in programming. CIDA programs are evaluated against both Canadian criteria such as relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and economy; and international criteria, which add sustainability and impact. Operationally, CIDA's Evaluation Division evaluates CIDA programs and provides support to branch-led evaluations of specific projects. CIDA's evaluation function is one of the strongest in the Government of Canada.

This year's lessons

The metaphor of a road trip encapsulates lessons identified from this year's evaluation reports.

  1. Plan before leaving on a trip, and make adjustments during the trip for road conditions and traffic.
  2. Travel with others to enrich your trip and avoid pitfalls along the way.
  3. As you drive, look for the proper exit, and move into position to take it.
  4. Focus on the journey, not just the destination.
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