Building Systemic Change: GEI's Comprehensive Approach to Capacity Building

Maria Fyodorova
Group of people participating in a training.
Building monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacity is at the heart of GEI’s mission and a central component of strengthening national M&E systems.

Maria Fyodorova is a communications consultant for GEI.


(As part of recent events to commemorate the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group’s 50th Anniversary, the Global Evaluation Initiative hosted several conversations with experts on “Future-Proofing National Evaluation Systems.” This blog is based on one of those conversations, between Jos Vaessen, Deputy Head of the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI), and Patrizia Cocca, Senior Communications and Knowledge Management Officer at GEI.)

Building monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacity is at the heart of GEI’s mission and a central component of strengthening national M&E systems.  GEI’s strategic approach not only focuses on increasing the skills of individuals and organizations but helps to nurture an enabling environment for M&E to flourish. GEI implements capacity-building efforts through collaboration with country partners, through training and professional development programs, and through knowledge sharing activities.

Three-Pronged Strategy for M&E Capacity Development

M&E capacity development is centered on enhancing the supply and demand for evaluative evidence in policy settings. A practical breakdown involves a 3-pronged approach. First, there's a need to improve individual capacities, focusing on refining skills of M&E stakeholders such as evaluators, decision-makers, politicians, and other M&E stakeholders. The second facet involves strengthening organizational capacities by clarifying and reinforcing roles and responsibilities among different institutional actors. This also includes integrating data systems with monitoring, evaluation, reporting, and decision-making platforms. Specific attention must be given to addressing concerns about mandates, resources, staffing, and connectivity to institutional processes of M&E. The third prong focuses on creating an enabling environment for M&E. This includes establishing a legislative basis, defining policies, and fostering awareness and understanding among diverse stakeholders. Academic institutions, voluntary organizations, professional evaluators, and civil society play pivotal roles in creating an enabling environment. Given the broad array of components and stakeholders involved, M&E capacity development must take a systemic approach to be effective.

Mastering the Craft: Key Competencies of Evaluators in Monitoring and Evaluation


Within an M&E system, the role of evaluators is particularly important, yet they are often underinvested in. Evaluators play a unique role by asking and responding to critical questions about the relevance and effectiveness of policy interventions. To fulfill their role effectively, evaluators require a diverse set of competencies. Foremost, they need strong communication and interpersonal skills, given the politically sensitive environments in which they often operate. Evaluation expertise is paramount, encompassing the ability to formulate critical questions, choose the most effective approach, and navigate the complexities of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The evolving landscape of data and the methods used to collect, manage, and analyze data (including big data), demands specific methodological expertise. Additionally, evaluators need management skills to oversee projects from formulation to reporting, all while upholding a sense of integrity and ethical standards. Institutional, substantive, and contextual expertise is also essential, requiring an understanding of organizational dynamics, sector-specific knowledge, and contextual awareness. Recognizing the impracticality of a single evaluator possessing all these competencies, the focus shifts to team composition, and specialization of team members who together should meet the diverse knowledge needs within an evaluation team.

GEI's Interventions to Build Capacity

The GEI adopts a comprehensive approach to address capacity building in order to facilitate systemic change. At the country level, GEI engages with key actors in national M&E systems, often focusing on central/apex M&E units within government entities. This often involves a diagnostic assessment of the M&E system in the country, strategic plan development, and the provision of tailored technical assistance, advisory services, and training. GEI’s second area of action centers around training and professional development, offering a global training program along with regional, country and institution-specific initiatives. Importantly, learning is not confined to formal training; it extends to gaining hands-on experience and insights from technical assistance work in the context of conducting M&E work and developing M&E systems and processes. The third area involves knowledge generation and sharing, including the organization of knowledge sharing events and the dissemination of knowledge resources. Topics include guidance on M&E processes, methods, and approaches, as well as insights on strengthening organizational structures and fostering a culture of evidence-informed decision-making, among others.

GEI’s Ongoing Efforts Around Knowledge Sharing

When discussing GEI’s knowledge-sharing endeavors, three key activities stand out as particularly effective and targeted towards diverse audiences. First and foremost is the National Evaluation Capacities Conference, a biannual in-person event organized in collaboration with the UNDP’s IEO. This conference gathers government representatives working in M&E from various countries, fostering peer-to-peer learning and experience exchange. There is abundant evidence that shows that South to South learning is one of the most impactful ways to acquire knowledge. When individuals from diverse countries collaborate, despite varying cultural backgrounds, their shared challenges create a common ground for mutual learning. Solutions that prove effective in one context may also be applicable in different places, emphasizing the universal value of peer-driven learning.

GEI’s gLOCAL Evaluation Week, an international M&E “festival” - that featured over 300 events and was attended by an estimated 20,000 participants in 2023 - targets a variety of M&E practitioners and serves as a platform for networking and knowledge sharing. Through gLOCAL, GEI aims to foster a dynamic movement and enhance connections among M&E practitioners globally. The primary goal is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, enabling practitioners to share insights and learn from one another.

The third knowledge sharing activity that GEI prioritizes is BetterEvaluation, the GEI knowledge platform, which is becoming a pivotal resource for knowledge around M&E.  While BetterEvaluation has traditionally been the go-to resource for evaluation practitioners about how to conduct evaluations, the platform now also includes resources related to developing national M&E systems, catering to a broader audience. This year, BetterEvaluation added a directory of global academic evaluation programs and a directory of trainings offered by the GEI Network, recognizing the importance of having these resources consolidated and available on one platform. The platform is also evolving to include specialized sections for young evaluators and M&E practitioners working in fragile contexts. Despite these accomplishments, there is always room for improvement, and with additional resources, GEI envisions further enhancements. Among other things, improving the interaction between users and the knowledge repository (e.g., by using customized generative AI models), would streamline information retrieval. Overall, the GEI continues to strive towards more effective and intentional knowledge-sharing practices.