Timely technical advice and assurance helps underpin the quality of evaluation of the UK’s overseas development assistance

When an evaluation of a project or a programme is commissioned, there is a range of tasks to be done that are not part of the actual evaluation itself, including drafting of terms of reference, advising on theories of change, assessment of evaluability and quality assurance of evaluation outputs. Our in-house and associate staff draw on their wealth of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) expertise to provide timely, demand-driven technical advice and assurance that, since 2016, has been raising the overall quality of the evaluation portfolio of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Increasingly, donors and other funding organisations have been recognising that they do not have the range and depth of resources required to carry out the wide variety of evaluation and related tasks that come with delivering major international development programmes. Triple Line provides evaluation ‘helpdesk’ services through call-down agreements with a number of clients, including our long-running service, from 2012, to strengthen the quality of evaluations for the FCDO. Our current contract, Evaluation Quality Assurance and Learning Services (EQuALS), has been in place since 2016 and provides independent quality assurance of evaluation products, and a range of specialist evaluation, monitoring and learning technical advice to FCDO as well as other government departments running overseas development assistance (ODA) funded programmes.

A panel of MEL experts provides high quality, timely assurance and advice to the design and implementation of evaluations

The EQuALS consortium, led by IOD Parc, comprises a panel of MEL experts providing high quality, timely assurance and advice to support the design and implementation of the evaluation of ODA-funded projects and programmes. The panel brings practical and theoretical skills across a range of ODA thematic areas, to provide three categories of technical assistance:

  • Independent quality assurance of evaluation products,
  • Evaluation technical advice to those managing and supporting evaluations (such as helping with theories of change or undertaking an evaluability assessment), and
  • Learning reviews of the FCDO evaluation portfolio.

Our panel members comprise some 20 in-house staff and associates covering sectors and themes ranging from governance, civil society and accountability to gender and inclusion, urban infrastructure, agriculture, trade and investment. Since 2016 we have carried out more than 150 EQuALS assignments, quality assuring terms of reference, inception, baseline, mid-term and final evaluation reports; advising on business cases, theories of change, evaluability and methodologies; and conducting learning reviews to synthesise lessons from across a portfolio of evaluations. We have also joined expert panels to raise awareness about and discuss the service; to share with FCDO how we deliver the service, what we have learned about common issues and how the quality of evaluation work might be strengthened; and to share examples from our own work of how we have adapted evaluation methodologies during the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2019 Annual Review of EQuALS found that there is a strong perception within FCDO that EQuALS is improving the overall quality of the evaluation portfolio. There is also a growing recognition of and demand for EQuALS expertise in other government departments with the Home Office, Cabinet Office, Department of Health and Social Care and Department for Business Innovation and Skills all now able to access the service.

Credit: title photo by WFP / Rein Skullerud 

Credit: title photo by International Organization for Migration
"UK aid shelter kits unloaded from a Royal Air Force A400M flight at Beira airport, Mozambique".

Credit: title photo by DFID / Rich Taylor
"UK Aid Logo."