Ex-post Eval Week: Exiting For Sustainability by Jindra Cekan, PhD

Hello. My name is Jindra Cekan, and I am the Founder and Catalyst of Valuing Voices at Cekan Consulting LLC. Our research, evaluation and advocacy network have been working on post-project (ex-post) evaluations since 2013.

Do we exit global development projects knowing our impacts are sustained? We hope so. As Professor Bea Rogers of Tufts said after evaluating 12 projects 2 years post-closure, “Hope is Not a Strategy”. Yet too often that is what projects that assume sustainability that we designed-in, does. They/we hope.

In this week’s series, we share lessons from project exits and ex-post evaluations, share guidance on how to foster sustainability.

Instead, we need to evaluate what we expected to remain from our implemented projects and what emerged by catalyzing local’s new ways to sustain activities that are locally manageable. (For more on evaluating sustained and emerging impacts. Those provide great lessons for how to sustain while we implement.

We also need to look at assumptions about the resilience of the context in which our projects exit. As esteemed evaluators Andy Rowe/ Michael Quinn Patton noted, given climate change we need to question even more assumptions by evaluating the natural environment and sustaining natural capital on which our programming relies pre, during & implementation, at exit and ex-post closure.

But we don’t need to wait for ex-post to make sustainability more likely for years to come. We must fund, design, implement, and monitor/ evaluate For Sustainability throughout the project cycle. Donors and implementers need guidance to help support their integration of sustainability throughout, including environment & resilience, benchmarks, as well as some in our industry who have a penchant to claim (sometimes sole) attribution for results rather than contribution.

I’ve updated my AEA blog on Sustained and Emerging Impacts Evaluations, and now see that project cycle adaptations for sustainability abound:

  • How are two-way feedback loops checking assumptions of success beyond exit?
  • How is handover to which stakeholders embedded from the onset, including triage of what they can sustain?
  • How is sustainability embedded in the funding, partnership agreements, and phasing projects down and over during implementation rather than just at project exit out.
  • What data is selected at baseline and retained post project and by whom for we need to track readiness for exit, or build better ownership, partnerships for resources and capacities. This includes including transparent benchmarking, adaptation, and communications.

This week, AEA365 is celebrating Ex-post Eval Week during which blog authors share lessons from project exits and ex-post evaluations. Reposted from the American Evaluation Association: https://aea365.org/blog/ex-post-eval-week-exiting-for-sustainability-by-jindra-cekan/ January 17, 2021

Do our development projects have sustained impact? Maybe (hint: ask local participants). Writer, speaker, evaluator, int’l developmt guru, mother, giraffe-lover