The Building Capacity for the 2030 Agenda 2.0 project aims to contribute to the transformation of the capacities of countries, institutions and individuals with a view to embedding key principles of the 2030 Agenda into their daily analysis and practices and enabling them to design, implement and review policies, programmes, actions and initiatives that contribute to making sure the world is a better place for all using Leave No One Behind (LNOB) as a guiding principle.
The evaluation assessed the project against the six OECD/DAC criteria; relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, likelihood of sustainability, likelihood of impact. The evaluation also used these criteria to identify good practices and potential challenges that the project has encountered throughout its implementation.
The evaluation followed a theory-based methodology that (a) builds on a solid conceptual framework (Kirkpatrick approach to evaluating training) to account for the learning/training component, (b) explores the project’s three result areas while accounting for the challenging global context associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluation was conducted remotely and relied on both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
The evaluation encountered several limitations, namely the wide scope of the project, the remote consultation and data collection due to COVID-19, the availability of the stakeholders for consultation during the evaluation period and a low response rate to the survey.
Key evaluation findings and conclusions
Relevance: The evaluation found the project to be aligned with UNITAR’s strategic objective aiming at “promoting the indivisible and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda” by responding to the emerging demands or needs of Member States to make policies more coherent and evidence based. A clear diversity of the partnerships established by UNITAR helped achieve project objectives. The demographic distribution of the project beneficiaries proved to be inclusive both in terms of gender and disability. For geographical outreach, the findings suggest that Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Africa have benefited the most from the different project’s offerings.
Coherence: The evaluation found that the demand-driven approach and the design of the project into three result areas was not integrated through delivery. The evaluation confirmed that the complementarities and synergies with the project partners’ programmes across result areas further strengthened the capacities in policy design and implementation, evidence-based policy making and data analysis and monitoring and reporting on the SDGs.
Effectiveness of the Policy Coherence component: The capacity of the project key stakeholders (individuals) to develop, implement and review integrated policies and promote more coherent and inclusive policy has been enhanced in terms of expertise, knowledge and skills acquired from the MOOCs and training events, as confirmed by the surveyed project beneficiaries.
Effectiveness of the Data and Evidence Component: The evaluation observed the enhancement of the StaTact tool (application, methodology and website), and the efforts to target more countries and increase the number of participants who were trained on the tool. It further confirmed the StaTact to be an effective tool for data planning (77 per cent of surveyed beneficiaries).
Effectiveness of the UN SDG:Learn component: The evaluation also found general satisfaction with the online training modality provided by UNITAR for its accessibility, effectiveness and efficiency in overcoming the learning challenges imposed, mostly by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the language accessibility remains of concern.
Efficiency: The evaluation confirmed the project’s ability to link to other UN programmes and multilateral organizations’ initiatives by leveraging additional matching funds to develop learning products and services in line with its identified result areas.
Likelihood of Impact and Sustainability: The evaluation could not fully establish the extent to which the project has contributed to the transformation of the capacities of countries, institutions and individuals to design, implement and review policies and programmes that are coherent and cognizant of key SDG principles (LNOB). The evaluation stressed that maintaining the different sets of project offerings online, including UN SDG:Learn, helped ensure the long-term sustainability of the project, particularly at the individual level.
Based on the findings and conclusions above, the evaluation produced three main recommendations, divided in sub-recommendations.
R1: Revisit the project’s implementation approach and develop a more coherent and plausible theory of change for the next phase. This could include:
R1.1: Ensuring more integrated actions by targeting the same pilot countries with interventions aiming at strengthening both the policy coherence and integrated planning as well as building the SDGs reporting and data capability (StaTact).
R1.2: Mapping the participants per country and proposing a pilot intervention in that country leveraging the enhanced capacity in specific areas.
R1.3: Developing a more systematic project tracking and monitoring framework to allow periodic reporting and analysis of the activity data with partners to help them integrate the findings into their relevant processes.
R1.4: Considering periodic assessment of learning.
R2: Develop a project strategy to increase outreach across countries and institutions, promote the different project offerings and enhance the project’s effectiveness and impact. This could include:
R2.1: Reconsidering the outreach strategy to the pilot countries by setting expectations and ensuring continuous communication with the relevant government counterparts in the potential pilot countries.
R2.2: Closely managing the in-country missions to ensure engagement with the relevant government counterparts, close communication with the consultants commissioned to deliver in-country technical support.
R2.3: Enhancing the offerings’ language accessibility. Overcoming the internet connectivity issue by providing offline or downloadable versions of the courses.
R2.4: Scheduling periodic “open clinics” for specific types of courses to make the learning process more dynamic and active.
R2.5: Maximizing the use of the developed tools by granting access to partners to disseminate its use while piggybacking on their missions and events.
R3: Strengthen partnerships to maximize reach and effectiveness and enhance sustainability and impact. This could include:
R3.1: Finalizing the UN SDG:Learn Partnership Strategy performance measures.
R3.2: Initiating/building a community of learners for those engaged in sectoral/thematic learning to allow for more dynamic learning processes and peer support.
R3.3: Sharing data analytics updates with partners on a periodic basis to analyze performance and inform decisions.
L1: Maintain the competitive edge. UNITAR has a solid competitive edge for being the renowned and recognized training “destination to go to” for both in-presence and online modalities.
L2: Apply the Pareto Principle (20/80). The project might opt for focused pilot interventions, by scoping, negotiating and devising a comprehensive offering to a Member State across more than one result area to address its demand and achieve its intended outcomes rather than stretching thinly across many offerings with limited likelihood to induce a change.
L3: Balance ambitious outcomes with realistic means in conducive contexts. A two-three years project of similar scope in a small organization (like UNITAR) cannot guarantee achieving such an ambitious institutional and behavioral change. The project should be opportunistic in attending to demands raised by Member States by targeting pilot countries.
L4: Treating every pilot intervention as a standalone project with a clear Theory of Change is key. Identify the assumptions, challenges and test them throughout the implementation is critical to ensure successful implementation.