Reflections on Evaluating for a Better Future
Marvin Taylor-Dormond, Director-General
Independent Evaluation Department, Asian Development Bank
2020 Asian Evaluation Week: “Evaluating for a Better Future”
7 September 2020
Mr. Cheng Lihua, Vice Minister, Ministry of Finance (MOF), People’s Republic of China
Mr. Shixin Chen, Vice President (Operations 1), Asian Development Bank
Mr. Jin Weimin, Deputy Director General, Shanghai Municipal Finance Bureau, People's Republic of China
Mr. Li Kouqing, President of Shanghai National Accounting Institute and Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Institute,
Colleagues and Friends:
Let me begin by extending my best wishes to everyone - To you and your loved ones’ health and safety in these trying times.
I am delighted to welcome you to this 5th anniversary edition of the Asian Evaluation Week. Your continued support, collaboration and enthusiasm has fueled the success of this annual AEW that brings together evaluators, policymakers and development partners around the world to share pioneering evaluation work, discuss its policy implications and enrich the use and role of evaluation in development.
In the same vein, let me extend our gratitude to our partners in AEW who, together with our IED team have worked hard and tirelessly over the years to bring to you this annual event: Thank you Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Institute, and the Ministry of Finance, People’s Republic of China.
Defining Times: COVID-19
A young man’s letter to home stated, “We are out of quarantine! Now the only thing we’re wondering is, where do we go from here”. Hard to believe that this letter was written over a hundred years ago during the times of the Spanish Flu, the deadly outbreak that ended up claiming an untold 50 million lives around the world. Strikingly similar is the air of uncertainty, anxiety and fear we are experiencing with COVID-19 today. History often repeats itself, especially when we don’t learn our lessons.
Being unprepared, underestimating and not having an idea of the tsunami of impacts that COVID-19 has entailed, has shown in part that along the way we lost the lessons of the sad past, especially concerning our understanding -or lack thereof- of the highly interconnected world in which we live in.
In tough and uncertain times like this pandemic, knowledge and learning are vital tools, and these are fundamental components of our evaluation discipline. As Confucius wisely put it, “Study the past if you would define the future.”
2020 Asian Evaluation Week: Evaluating for a Better Future
In this sense, our 2020 AEW conference takes on a meaningful and timely theme this year with “Evaluating for a Better Future”. This is a perfect moment for introspection, for contributing to solutions to this crisis and for capitalizing on opportunities in one of the most difficult times of humanity and for each one of us, a defining moment of our lifetime.
But what do we mean by a better future? As we glean over the current pandemic, I am sure that many of us want a better future that is characterized in part by:
A world with strong leadership and political will committed to doing the right things and getting them done right.
A world guided by a robust decision-making process that is well-informed by science and evidence to meet our aspirations.
A world marked by solidarity in which we can work together to understand and address the collective challenges we are currently facing.
With this in mind, looking at the role of evaluation and the intended objectives of this conference, we have assembled four key areas of discussion that can assist in working for a better future through our evaluation practice.
First is the role of evaluation in helping to shape strategic direction. Greater engagement between evaluators, designers, and policymakers can bolster leadership and sound decision making that takes into account evaluation evidence.
The second area is the role of evaluation in public financial management. The massive public resources that are being disbursed to fight COVID-19, demand timely and commensurate evaluation effort to help inform programs and projects to meet desired results.
The third area for discussion is evaluating private sector interventions for development. The private sector is the creator of wealth, income and jobs as well as a key component for advancing innovation. Evaluation can help in demonstrating the numerous contributions of the private sector to development and in finding ways to promote its growth.
Lastly, is the area of evaluation to support innovation. Evaluation can help in better understanding innovation processes, so critical for economic and social progress, and in identifying factors that drive and inhibit these processes
We hope the 2020 AEW’s four areas of discussions fuel our high purpose of improving the nexus between our discipline and the policy, strategy, program and project decision making processes, as well as our commitment to continuously enhance our evaluation competencies, skillsets, methods and practices.
In concluding, let me again remind everyone that our evaluation work when well conducted has real consequences and that to enhance our effectiveness we must therefore be always mindful of the context in which we are operating, of the ways we interact with stakeholders, and of the forms we choose to deliver our messages.
This pandemic is opening a new world of opportunities to contribute with our work to materialize such consequences but this requires that we also adapt to the circumstances, that we hone our knowledge and that we work hard in coming out of this trying times with a strengthened spirit, new levels of understanding of our discipline and a determination to make a difference through our evaluation work.
In other words, as we navigate our way through this pandemic, let us take to heart an old Chinese saying: ”When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills”.
Colleagues and friends let us build windmills to harness the opportunities that this crisis presents to us to further elevate and enhance our evaluation discipline and effectively contribute, as intended by this year’s AEW, to building a better future in our world, in our countries and in our communities.
Thank you! Xie Xie!