Adaptive evaluation: considering climate risks in theory and practice – first episode of a new mini-series

In episode one of a new podcast mini-series, IIED hosts a discussion about the principles, practice and challenges of considering climate risks in evaluation of programmes aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Article, 13 December 2021

Sustainable development is every country’s goal. How they get there isn’t always straightforward – but at the very least, sectors must work together.

But therein lies the challenge: too often projects and programmes designed to further progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) work in silos and ignore the interactions within, between and around them.  

That’s where evaluation can play a part. Evaluation of progress against a particular SDG can identify the connections between the social, economic and environmental dimensions of policies and interventions.  

Climate risks must be part of evaluation 

In this first episode of the mini-series ‘Sustainable Development Goals – Evaluating progress for a brighter future’, guests from research, practice and government backgrounds discuss the potential of evaluation, specifically in the context of considering and including climate risks in an evaluation design. 

They discuss the importance of how, when evaluating a sustainable development initiative or intervention, it is vital to make sure that the initiative has taken a range of climate risks on board; recognising that what may work in the present could be severely affected in the future if climate-proofing has not taken place.

Samson Machuka from the Kenyan government recounts Kenya’s experience and the importance it places on responding to climate change, at the same time as setting an ambitious development agenda. Using critical indicators to measure progress has helped significantly with identifying levels of progress but challenges remain. 

Inconsistent progress is not only an issue for Kenya but for many other countries too. Emilie Beauchamp describes the lack of a systematic approach to including climate risks in evaluation and a trend to focus on measuring progress on mitigation or reducing emissions and being climate smart, rather than looking at how countries must adapt to ongoing and future climate risks. 

Nick Brooks builds on this theme, describing how assessing adaptation progress through evaluation can be extremely complex. There are sets of principles to help and a new guide coming from IIED. Across the board, including data from a diverse set of sources – from Indigenous Peoples and from science, for example, is central to the richness and usefulness of an evaluation. 

So what’s the bottom line? For all guests it is that if development isn't adaptive – if it doesn't incorporate adaptation to climate change – then it is not sustainable. Grappling with assessing whether that has been done has to be central to an evaluation of a sustainable development initiative.

Image showing the faces of four people and the words "adaptative evaluation: considering climate risks in theory and practice"

Expert views

The episode 1 participants are:

Stefano D’Errico, head of monitoring, evaluation and learning in IIED's Strategy and Learning group. He is an evaluation specialist, former council member of the UK Evaluation Society, former advocacy lead of EVALSDGs, and lead author of the guidebook 'Evaluation to connect national priorities', a guide for commissioners and managers.

Emilie Beauchamp, senior researcher in IIED's Strategy and Learning group. Her work focuses on exploring the interactions between different types of environmental interventions, ecological and climate changes, and local livelihoods in resource-dependent communities in terrestrial landscapes.

Nick Brooks, an adaptation specialist with a background in climate science and the director of Garama 3C, a consulting firm specialising in climate change and development. He has worked on adaptation monitoring, evaluation and learning for over ten years, focusing on how we can move beyond the measurement of outputs to assess the likely and actual effectiveness of adaptation actions.

Samson Machuka, director of the monitoring and evaluation department in the State Department for Planning and Statistics within the National Treasury and Planning of the government of Kenya. Samson has coordinated a government-wide governance system popularly known as e-Nimes whose core focus is to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of public resources.


You can subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast app as follows: 

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

Further listening

Make Change Happen logo

Listen to our Make Change Happen podcast, which provides informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences.