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Creating an evaluation culture through capacity building: A new frontier in a science organisation

Toni White, Helen Percy, and Bruce Small

Evaluative capacity building is a critical element of weaving the action of evaluation, evaluative activity, evaluative thinking, and appreciation of evaluation into the fabric of organisations. AgResearch, the Crown Research Institute for the New Zealand pastoral farming sector, is embarking on the evaluative capacity building journey following an internal review identifying the need for evaluation to enable better measuring and monitoring of impact from science research programmes.
Evaluation has not traditionally been a core component of New Zealand science programmes. However, with funders and stakeholders requiring science organisations to demonstrate impact and outcomes from research, this situation is changing. The newness of an evaluation culture, whereby monitoring and evaluation are built into science research programmes for learning purposes as much as accountability, to many science organisations within New Zealand means that this is an era for development, learning, and investment in evaluative activity.
This article focuses on three key realms of exploration: a) Who and what creates demand for evaluation in science? b) How can science organisations, such as AgResearch, create the capability to engage in and use evaluation? c) What are the challenges and opportunities for science organisations and science teams as they engage in the new practices of programme monitoring and evaluation?
Key findings include the importance of organisational readiness to facilitate evaluation access, the need to incentivise and encourage scientists to engage in evaluation, and the need to build evaluative capacity throughout the organisation and its programmes. The article also highlights the need to identify and work towards addressing the multiple challenges that project teams face when first introduced to the field of evaluation.

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