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The Innovation Process
Activity 1.1 A

Learn from evaluations and reports

This activity will help you to understand the problems and opportunities that have already been identified in relation to your area of interest.

Whether you want to explore how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) might improve medical supply chains in remote areas, or whether you want to learn about how your organisation can improve its urban livelihoods programming, you’ll want to find out what’s already known about your topic.

External evaluations and after-action reviews are perhaps the best place to gain insights as to what works, what doesn’t, and why, in humanitarian response. Drawing your insights from evaluations and reports will ensure that your project is grounded in evidence, and that potential solutions are aligned with prior recommendations.

Reviewing reports

Keep this quick and easy by picking three reports that are relevant to your area of interest and triangulating between them. The first place to look is in your own organisation. If you would like to explore resources beyond your organisation, ALNAP’s Humanitarian Evaluation, Learning and Performance (HELP) Library is a good place to start. Look out for meta-evaluations that analyse multiple  evaluations.

You should also consider which humanitarian cluster is responsible for your area of interest so you can identify other organisations that might be publishing relevant materials, and review any relevant humanitarian principles and standards to ensure they are fresh in mind.

Next, take a look through the three reports you have identified, noting the main barriers, gaps, challenges and recommendations described by the authors. Consider the following questions to spark inspiration:

  • Source: What is the publisher’s/author’s track record and reputation? What do you think is motivating the study?
  • Key message: What seems to be the central message of the report? How do the authors evaluate the programme (pay special attention to how ‘success’ is measured and how the study was carried out)? What’s the bottom line?
  • Performance factors: What factors seem to be contributing to poor performance? How do the authors know this? Do you agree?
  • Recommendations: What do the authors recommend in response to their findings?

Next, take your notes and annotations and try to make sense of the main barriers, gaps and challenges identified by the authors of the reports. Challenges often emerge either because there is a barrier that hinders the successful delivery of an activity or because there is a gap in knowledge or capability that is required to successfully deliver an activity.

What barriers and gaps do you see?

Try to distil those barriers and gaps by writing them on sticky notes and grouping them into recognisable themes and patterns.

Can you identify common features, sources or elements?

Further inspiration

The sector’s largest library of resources on Humanitarian Evaluation, Learning and Performance (HELP)