Realising the SDGs by reflecting on the way(s) we reason, plan and act: the importance of evaluative thinking

The following is taken from EVALSDGs‘ briefing paper, Realising the SDGs by reflecting on the way(s) we reason, plan and act: the importance of evaluative thinking

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Systematically evaluating policies, programmes and strategies is an essential feature of ongoing follow-up and review processes for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But although it may be shocking to say, evaluation on its own is not enough. If follow-up and review frameworks and mechanisms are to address challenges, gaps and successes, they must be grounded in evaluative thinking. Evaluative thinking includes both a set of skills and a particular outlook or viewpoint. Building capacity in evaluative thinking is not the same as building capacity to do evaluations. This briefing defines evaluative thinking, describes what it requires to thrive and what stifles or inhibits it, and explains how it is intimately connected to adaptive management.

Policy pointers

Just conducting evaluations won’t make SDG follow-up and review frameworks effective — we must also cultivate evaluative thinking.

Evaluative thinking involves critical thinking skills and requires a questioning viewpoint that can be acquired and nurtured.

Evaluative thinking grows when it is intentional, has an enabling environment, is supported by leaders and sees development as a context-specific and complex challenge. It is inhibited by ‘project thinking’, narrow roles, expectations of ‘solutions’, and by political pressures to hide failures or provide successes.

Evaluative thinking is an essential component of adaptive management and is indispensable for all decision makers, organisations and communities working towards the SDGs.

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