2021 Evaluation of Aid

Relevant? Almost Always: Relevance in Development Cooperation

Joel Samoff

Evaluations of interventions within development cooperation are almost always based on the evaluation criteria developed by OECD/DAC. This includes an assessment of whether an intervention is relevant. One observation related to the evaluation criteria “relevance” is that practically all evaluations within Swedish development cooperation find that the intervention under evaluation is relevant. This is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but it limits the usefulness and utility of the criterion if the results are always the same.

Against this background, the author of this Working Paper explores the use of the relevance criterion in evaluations of Swedish development cooperation. He critically investigates a number of recently conducted evaluations and a selection of other documents. Based on this investigation, he presents a number of suggestions for how the relevance criterion can be improved.

This paper is meant to contribute to a discussion about the use of the relevance criterion and serve as a reference for evaluators and commissioners, with the goal of creating more nuanced evaluations of the relevance of interventions in the future.

Main findings: 

The report author suggests three possible ways of improving the use of the relevance criterion:

  1. Remove the criterion. One possible solutions is to remove the relevance criterion as a prioritised area for all evaluations, and instead use it more selectively.
  2. Revise the criterion. Another possible solution is to revise the use of the criterion to make evaluations more informative and productive.
  3. Renew the criterion. A third option is to communicate that independent, well-founded, and critical evaluations of the relevance of interventions is desirable, even if this means that the results of such evaluations run counter to Sida’s or partner organisations’ policies and priorities.

Report author: 

Joel Samoff