United Nations
Environment Programme

Priority Setting

Determining Priorities and Sequencing Evaluation Work

Workplans are not developed in isolation, but in the context of an on-going programme of evaluation work and temporal variations in available financial and human resources. These factors are critical in converting an evaluation ‘wish list’ into a feasible operation work plan. From a consultation process, a ‘long list’ of possible evaluations is collated and the available budget / funding required for each evaluation is specified or estimated. Budgets for project evaluations usually reside within project budgets.  The allocation of available financial resources across higher level / strategic evaluations requires careful consideration as resources must be sufficient to deliver high quality evaluations in a form that promotes use by their target audiences.

Human resource availability is a principal limiting factor in the evaluation plan; the volume of evaluation work exceeds the available capacity to complete it. Smaller projects with a total operational budget of less than 1 million dollars (US) are excluded from consideration to avoid deploying a large proportion of evaluation staff time on many evaluations of small-scale initiatives (unless deemed to be of key strategic importance to UN Environment). Priorities must be clearly set. A number of principles / criteria are applied to score and rank the prospective evaluation activities in the rolling work plan.  The 'attractiveness' and 'feasibility' scoring criteria include:

  1. afford the highest priority to more strategic (e.g. Medium Term Strategy, Subprogramme and Thematic) evaluations and the preparation of mandated documents such as the biennial evaluation synthesis report;
  2. afford high priority to project evaluations that contribute findings to the strategic evaluations;
  3. prioritise evaluations that are mandatory and time-critical (e.g. Global Environment Facility project evaluations are mandatory and must be undertaken within 6 months of operational completion);
  4. prioritise evaluations of projects that have already reached operational completion over those that are yet to end;
  5. prioritise evaluations of projects / programmes with larger total operational budgets over smaller ones and;
  6. prioritise projects where the magnitude / distribution of benefits/effects from the intervention are likely to be high, (and among these, further prioritise those where attribution of benefits/effects to the intervention is most feasible – i.e. preferentially capture opportunities for influence and impact evaluation).