Footprint Evaluation Initiative: Incorporating Environmental Sustainability into ALL Evaluations
Alice Macfarlan is the Manager of the BetterEvaluation Knowledge Platform, which is part of the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI).
What is Footprint Evaluation?
Footprint Evaluation is not a specific methodology or an approach. It’s an ongoing collaborative effort to curate and co-create knowledge about methods and approaches that can be used to understand the environmental sustainability of interventions. The Footprint Evaluation Initiative, hosted on the Better Evaluation platform, provides guidance, tools and processes on how to include sustainability in evaluations - to support the commissioners of evaluation, evaluation professionals and users of evaluation findings.
Why We Believe ALL Evaluations Should Consider Environmental Sustainability
The world is faced with numerous, compounding environmental crises such as climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, ocean warming and acidification, and deforestation - with serious potential for global catastrophe. Many of us are living through the devastating effects of these intersecting crises on a local level. Where I live in Australia, “catastrophic” bushfires and floods are becoming regular events and important ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef and the giant kelp forests in the South East, are facing potentially irreversible damage. In the face of these crises, decision-making must be informed by evaluations that take into account the potential – and actual – environmental consequences of planned interventions.
However, most evaluations fail to consider environmental sustainability (see recent stocktaking of sustainability readiness conducted by the UN Evaluation Group and the Canadian Evaluation Society). This is even true for countries who have made global environmental commitments. There are significant improvements to be made across the board on the inclusion of environmental sustainability in evaluations. The Footprint Evaluation effort is a step in that direction.
Learning How to Evaluate the Potential or Actual Footprint of an Intervention
Some of the key challenges we’ve been working on through the Footprint Evaluation Initiative include:
- How can an evaluation effectively address natural systems/environmental sustainability?
- What hinders or helps this? What are specific challenges and opportunities?
- What kind of guidance, tools and processes for evaluations will help to address environmental sustainability? Which systemic approaches amplify helping factors and enable us to overcome hindering factors?
For more information, take a look at the following resources:
- Check out the Footprint Evaluation Initiative thematic page on BetterEvaluation.org – this is the knowledge hub for the project’s outputs and contains guidance, tools, and resources about incorporating environmental sustainability into evaluation
- Get involved in the Footprint Evaluation project by joining the Footprint Evaluation Discussion Group – contribute to discussions, ask questions, and share resources and knowledge
- Watch the recordings of the Footprint Evaluation Webinar Series for a quick overview of some of the key concepts, ideas, and tools to emerge from the project so far.
- Explore other relevant approaches and interventions. Footprint Evaluation complements other cross-cutting initiatives in evaluation which address related issues, including:
- (This is an incomplete list – please feel free to add others in the comments!)
(This blog is edited from a version that first appeared on the American Evaluation Association website.)
Header image credit: Photo: © Arne Hoel/World Bank.
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