Analyze the Context

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What is it?

NB: This sub-activity is applicable for all types of evaluations (mid-term, ex-post, etc) and interventions (project, programme, policy). However, the analysis of the context will vary. For ex-post evaluations of complex programmes and policies, the analysis should be thorough. For mid-term evaluations of individual projects, it can be lighter.

It is a description of:

  • The main contextual elements around which the project/programme/policy is evolving. That is for example the country security context, the political constraints, the national plans and policies, the security strategic documents and priorities.
  • The project/programme/policy main characteristics. It explains the story line of the project/programme/policy. It often includes the description of the objective(s), the implementation modality/actors, the budget, the main activities, the intended beneficiaries and major stakeholders, the geographical and temporal scope.

When the description of the context is well drafted, it can then be directly included in a section of the final report.

Why is it important?

  • To provide a common understanding among the team members and with the mandator of what needs to be evaluated.
  • For team members to familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of the project/programme/policy before leaving for the field.
  • To elaborate/understand the logic of the project/programme/policy. The analysis of the context is even more important when no logical framework or theory of change was prepared during the design of the project/programme/policy.
  • To draft the Evaluation Questions adapted to the key issues at stake.
  • When drafting the final report, to provide relevant findings and useful recommendations adapted to the context.

How do we do it?

The description of the context can be done by:

  • Collecting and analysing contextual documents (e.g. national development strategy, security strategy/plan, country level evaluations/reports, etc.) and the project/programme/policy documents (e.g. assessment mission’s reports, design reports, contracts, progress reports and other evaluation reports if available).
  • Interviewing mandator’s staff at HQ and in the field, as well as staff/experts involved in the design of the project/programme/policy: project designer, programme manager, policy sections at HQ, country donor representatives. Interviews should be rather open (not too structured) in order to obtain the “story line” of the project/programme/policy. Do not forget to draft meeting notes summarizing these interviews and share them with the entire evaluation team.
  • Drafting the description according to the following points, but is not limited to:
    • For the country context:
      • Country’s main characteristics and timeline of major events, political decisions, wars, peace agreements, etc.
      • Security context, national policies and plans, legal frameworks.
    • For the project/programme/policy context:
      • Background, including the incentives for designing the project/programme/policy, the needs, the political will, etc.
      • Geographical and temporal scope (start and end dates, any amendments in the timeline).
      • Budget (committed/engaged, contracted to date).
      • Main objective(s), specific objective(s) and expected results.
      • Main activities.
      • Main stakeholders: donor, implementing actors, direct beneficiaries, indirect beneficiaries.
      • Main implementation modality.
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