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Evaluation of IDRC’s strategy to scale research results

March 31, 2020

An external evaluation will assess the implementation of IDRC’s 2015–2020 strategic objectives and draw lessons to inform future work. Led by On Think Tanks, in partnership with Southern Hemisphere, the evaluation is being conducted from December 2019 to December 2020. 

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The evaluation asks summative questions about how, and how well, IDRC has met its strategic objective to scale. How did it plan, implement, coordinate, and learn about this work? What were the strengths and challenges? What outcomes did it achieve? How valuable and sustainable are those outcomes, and for whom? 

It will also ask learning questions to inform future work. Learning will consider experiences and perspectives of the global research community, including IDRC, its grantees and partners, and other organizations working to achieve results at scale.


The evaluation will be used primarily by IDRC to inform and improve the implementation of its new 10-year strategic plan. Evaluation findings and lessons will be positioned for IDRC senior management, programs, and projects. 

An internal evaluation advisory group, comprised of representatives from across the organization, will participate in designing the evaluation, making sense of the analysis, and co-producing recommendations for action. IDRC grantees will play a role as key informants and will bring their perspectives to bear in making sense of the findings. 

The issues of scale and scaling are challenging to many organizations, and IDRC remains committed to sharing its learnings with others in an effort to make positive change in the world. As such, IDRC will continue to convene and participate in events and discussions on scaling and incorporate evaluation insights as appropriate. Key learnings from the final evaluation report will be widely shared.

Approach and design

 The evaluation will be made up of four components: 

  • The organizational review will include document reviews, staff interviews, and a survey that will examine how IDRC adjusted its organizational systems and processes to align with strategic objectives. 

  • Case studies will take a deep dive into some of the outcomes achieved by efforts to scale, including examples of internal changes and programmatic cases. 

  • External positioning will learn from the experiences of external organizations and position IDRC’s efforts within this framework. 

  • Grantee perceptions and experiences will be captured in interviews and a survey. 

IDRC will be engaged throughout the process to ensure that evaluation findings are useful. The internal evaluation advisory group will provide input at critical stages and they will help to make sense of the findings and to find a way forward with what is learned. 

Four guiding principles for scaling impact 

IDRC’s own research on scaling, which resulted in the Scaling Impact book, identifies four guiding principles that will be applied as a framework in the evaluation to understand IDRC’s efforts to scale: 

  • optimal scale 

  • justification 

  • coordination 

  • dynamic evaluation 

The evaluators

On Think Tanks (OTT) is a global platform dedicated to the study and support of policy research centres (think tanks). Founded in 2011, OTT has conducted research and organizational reviews to gain insights into how evidence informs policy and practice, with a particular emphasis on the Global South. The work of its associates spans research generation, communication, and use.

Southern Hemisphere is a leading evaluation practice in southern Africa with experience leading and collaborating on national, regional, and global evaluations. The team is experienced in many approaches to program design and evaluation, including outcome mapping and outcome harvesting. They also have a strong understanding of issues of scaling from an evaluation and design perspective.

Learn more about how IDRC and the evaluation understand scaling, and how it relates to your work in this short animation and read more in Scaling Science: In brief.

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