We often hear the term “value engineering” in reference to health care or the construction industry. While the term has sometimes seemed synonymous with cost cutting, at its heart, value-engineering is meant to enhance the value of a product, system or service by taking a function-oriented, systematic, team approach that results in the biggest bang for money spent.

Value engineering aims to figure out how exactly to provide quality services within constrained environments.  Caroline Heider, Director General of the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank, calls it “value for money” evaluation. In a blog post on this topic, Heider adds “for whom?”, and urges clients and implementers of evaluation to ask:

  • Are we asking the right questions?
  • What is the intended use of this evaluation?
  • What value-added might be created from implementing our recommendations?
  • How can we conduct the evaluation and formulate recommendations to create the greatest possible value for different intended users?

Evaluation must prove its value. Siphoning off program funds to engage in M&E is a hard choice for leaders to make. Every dollar that is moved to M&E related activities is taken from program implementation and other areas in need of resources. This means that evaluators are facing an important call:

To engineer our services to allow for greatest use and learning and to deliver the best value for our efforts.

As EnCompass looks forward to providing technical and advisory services for USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research through the Evaluation Services II IDIQ, we invite our IDIQ partners and the evaluation community to think about how to value engineer our solutions to allow for greatest impact and benefit. How do we ensure that solutions are right-sized and meaningful – appropriate for the task at hand and the resources available?

Our experience leads to emphasize five key elements in our work:

  • Utilization oriented designs – to ensure focus and alignment
  • Mixed-methodologies – to enhance confidence in the data and analysis
  • Participatory, appreciative engagement – to work smarter and faster by capitalizing on stakeholder knowledge, learn from successes, and invite stakeholder buy in
  • Whole-systems perspective – to testing assumptions and uncover factors that impinge on success
  • Engagement of local evaluators – to increase inclusion and ensure cultural competency

When a client selects us as their evaluation provider/partner, our work, the relevance of our findings and our ability to engage stakeholders make a difference – not only to program implementers but to all program participants on the ground. This is a responsibility that all evaluators must take seriously.

We invite you to think with us about this important question, so we can all get smarter together.