On 15 October 2020, the conference of the Association of Programme and Policy Assessors held a session entitled “Performance assessment of social programmes and projects: a multiplicity of views, approaches and tools”. The debate was organized by the Evolution and Philanthropy ANO [independent not-for-profit organisation (INO)] and the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko.
Employees of federal ministries and major charitable foundations as well as researchers and representatives from academia discussed one of the major trends in global and national politics and the non-profit sector – the development of an evidence-based approach in social studies and the creation of registers of validated practices.
It was for social studies that the first Practice Certification Standard developed to enable an accurate and clear description of a project and demonstration of the social results achieved as planned. It was a joint venture of the Evolution and Philanthropy INO, the Timchenko Foundation and the Moscow State University of Psychology and Pedagogy with support from the Presidential Grants Foundation.
“We are exploring the evidence-based approach with our beneficiaries,” says Elvira Garifulina, head of the Family and Children programme of the Timchenko Foundation. – The evidence-based approach is not easy to use, but it shows not the number of events but the social result — the real changes that take place in the life of children and families”.
Setting up registers based on assessment and selection of the best-performing projects and entities is the option chosen by the Strategic Initiatives Agency, the RF Finance Ministry and the RF Ministry for Economic Development and Trade.
Both major donors and government agencies have endorsed the evidence-based approach because they see it as a way to improve managerial and project culture in the not-for-profit and welfare sectors.
The speakers also identified the avenues for growing assessment and the evidence-based approach, one of which is better coordination between representatives of the social sector and science in validating the effectiveness of practices.
In the final analysis, the debate demonstrated that, despite the persisting differences in basic concepts and the need to a find a common denominator in methodologies, the parties to the dialogue see the evidence-based approach as a framework for positive change in the social sector.