UN Women’s Independent Evaluation office gave its top rating of “very good” to Baastel’s 2017 evaluation of the Strengthening women’s capacity in disaster risk reduction to cope with climate change in Vietnam project, placing the report on its list of best evaluations. The rating reflects the strong mixed methods design, thoughtful analysis, and forward-looking recommendations provided by Baastel’s team of gender, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and local experts. The evaluation was commended for its sensitivity to issues of gender equality and human rights and its “highly participatory” approach, including “stakeholder engagement at multiple stages.
After establishing criteria for field visit sites, the team organized in-depth interviews and focus group discussions in two sample provinces. For the three provinces they could not visit, they conducted Skype or phone interviews, augmented by a survey. In total, they engaged with 117 stakeholders, from community beneficiaries to government representatives, project staff, and other implementing agencies.
The project sought to increase women’s participation in decision making in DRR planning in order to address climate change adaptation and increase community resilience. To that end, project activities ranged from community training to institutional capacity building and national policy work. Interacting with community beneficiaries gave the Baastel team valuable insight into the project’s response to varied stakeholder realities. For instance, focus groups participants in the communities told the evaluators that they wanted training to put more emphasis on water rescue skills, and that documents needed larger print and graphics suited to less literate audiences. The team also learned that the livelihood activities model – a small-scale pilot that was not included in the original project design – was widely regarded as one of the project’s most successful initiatives.
The Baastel team’s participatory approach to data collection helped them assess institutional and policy components of the project despite weaknesses in the performance management framework, which focused heavily on quantitative metrics which were less useful for understanding this kind of process. Attribution – always a potentially sticky issue for evaluators – was another challenge, complicated by the number of related projects, donors, and other actors working in the same thematic area, often with same partners and stakeholders. Open-ended exploration of issues with a range of stakeholders nevertheless allowed the evaluation team to probe UN Women contributions from a variety of angles and generate reliable findings and useful recommendations in these areas.
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