How Evaluation is Shifting

June Holley
2 min readApr 13, 2022

Given the complexity and depth of the world’s problems, evaluation theories, practices and processes are shifting to better respond to that complexity. The argument goes something like this: problems in our world are increasingly complex, current approaches that fund individual projects (requiring clear outcomes, and evaluating progress towards those outcomes) have actually inhibited the kind of innovation and transformation needed to completely shift the many interrelated systems that make up our world. This means concepts such as evaluation and assessment of impact need to shift as well.

On November 10th, a panel of 8 great minds had a dialogue on the ways that impact measurement and evaluation are shifting.

The panelists were.

Below is a link to a video the dialogue:

Key takeaways from the session were:

Some of the key themes

  • Insights and breakthroughs come from investing proper time in reflection and learning, which we’re not currently doing.
  • Power dynamics are embedded into evaluation systems through inflexible questions which signal a lack of trust. The process needs to be more participatory since it oftentimes stands in contradiction to an equity approach.
  • We need to continually ask: is this process community owned and run?
  • We need to make public the wild assumptions that sit behind cause and effect paradigms.
  • Though conversations are becoming more progressive, the practices don’t yet reflect this.

Beacons of good practice

  • Having a vision as a north star
  • Slashing indicators as key questions in application forms
  • Prioritising learning and quantifying instead of impact measurement
  • Shifting the work to the funder, eg. taking responsiblity of finding out what grantees are doing by what’s been reported online
  • Decentralizing impact analysis & decision-making through lean and frequent mechanisms
  • Making data openly available so people can review and assess as they please

Some nice quotes

  • Indicators will shift because life happens” (Motaz, Garfield Foundation)
  • Learning is how we shift, adapt and change in real time” (Liz, Tamarack Institute)
  • I’ve never seen people read M&E reports and be inspired…we need to use stories” (Charles, WACSI)
  • We need to get rid of ‘zombie’ practices — those that are dead but still being used” (Mark, From Here to There)
  • The best learning happens in learning communities” (June, Network Weaver)

We’d also like to share a chart that summarizes how evaluation and impact assessment are shifting. It’s a work in progress so please feel free to add comments and suggestions using the comment feature.

If you’re interested in being engaged in further impact initiatives with us please fill in this 60 second survey.



June Holley

Helping those working towards transformation network, share learning, and create the support system for transformation.