Long-Term Lens: Project Impact Evaluation
It can be a scary idea: really evaluating the impact that your organisation has had after you’ve left. What if your project did not bring about the intended results? It is not surprising that ex-post evaluations are seldom done. The fact that most evaluations are done in the last year of a project when all the money needs to be spent makes ex-post evaluations even rarer.
The Hunger Project took that risk of spending time and money to truly know how lasting their impact actually is. They hired research consultancy MDF to evaluate the impact of their projects in village communities in Ghana and Malawi, where they had left three years before. The research looked into what was left of their activities and came up with unexpected results…
The Hunger Project
Not surprisingly, the Hunger Project is an organisation which works towards a world without hunger. Their goal is to enable people to improve their situation. Therefore, they aim to create sustainable solutions and equal partnerships, with an integrated approach to address all causes of hunger at the same time.
The Hunger Project is active in nine African programme countries where they invest in village communities. Their focus on enabling people to care for their communities means they work with a so-called ‘exit strategy’. This strategy aims to make communities self-organising and self-sufficient without any help from The Hunger Project. Through monitoring and evaluations, The Hunger Project stays involved from a distance.
The ex-post evaluation
Because of decreasing hunger and poverty, The Hunger Project knew that what they did was effective, but they didn’t know to what extent. And this didn’t answer the question of how the village communities were doing after they had left or how sustainable their impact was. Asking those questions meant they risked finding out that The Hunger Project did not have a lasting effect. Or worse, that they had harmed the village communities. However, they still decided to hire research consultancy MDF to help them find the answers.
Despite the unknown outcomes, excitement also filled the air: neither The Hunger Project nor MDF had ever conducted an ex-post evaluation years after a project ended. The results? Ironically, the mobilisation and subsequent self-sufficiency of the village communities turned out to be the big forte of The Hunger Project, whereas infrastructure (a former fundament of the thematic programmes and the overall strategy) formed a stumbling block.
Working with the results
Although the results were unexpected, or maybe because of that, they led to fruitful conversations within and outside the organisation. The African country teams implemented the lessons in the new Africa strategy. They are investing more in community mobilisation and less in infrastructure. Furthermore, The Hunger Project now works with organisations with complementing expertise instead of doing everything themselves. Finally, The Hunger Project Malawi has conducted two more ex-post evaluations with the MDF methodology.
After conducting several ex-post evaluations, The Hunger Project would recommend this to all organisations in development aid. Although the results might be scary and confronting, ex-post evaluations grant the opportunity to get a clear view of what works within your organisation and what does not. So take that chance and face the challenge!
Photo: Martin Kharumwan