Fostering a Professional Evaluation Culture in Bhutan

In the past few decades, there has been a remarkable growth in the field of evaluation as evidenced by the steady increase in the number of Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs) across the world. The number of national and regional VOPEs has risen from 15 in the 1990s to more than 155 by early 2013.

The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) embarked upon strengthening the monitoring and evaluation system in the country since 2006 through establishing the national monitoring and evaluation system (NMES), following which, considerable progress has been made on the monitoring front. However, evaluation culture in the country still remains weak.

Since 2009, about 16 officials from the government attended the International Programme for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) with various sources of funding, a major portion of which was supported by DANIDA. This training contributed immensely to enhancing the awareness and capacity in the RGOB. About 24 Bhutanese with an interest in evaluation are members of the International Organization for Collaborative Outcome Management (IOCOM) that was established in 2010.

In order to streamline, strengthen and institutionalize the evaluation system, in 2012, the RGOB drafted the National Evaluation Policy, and the National Evaluation Protocol and Guidelines, which will be launched in the second half of 2015. Several evaluations of development policies and programmes have also been conducted from 2013 till date through the Research and Evaluation Division, Gross National Happiness Commission (RED/GNHC) and in collaboration with government ministries.

A SWOT analysis of the Bhutan’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) System undertaken during a training on evaluation in Bhutan in March 2013, conducted by the GNHC and UNICEF Bhutan, found that evaluation system was weak, technical capacity to conduct/commission and manage evaluations was lacking, and demand for evaluation was low. It was also noted that evaluations in Bhutan were also generally mostly donor-driven. These factors posed challenges towards strengthening the evaluation culture in Bhutan. It was also recommended that a non-profit association and network of evaluators be established to provide the much-needed platform to promote evaluation in Bhutan. This led to the establishment of the Evaluation Association of Bhutan (EAB), which continues to operate as an informal virtual organization, led and managed by volunteers.

With the establishment of EAB in 2013, a few Bhutanese evaluators joined the Community of Evaluators (CoE) as individual members, which contributed to more discourses on development evaluation and strengthening the evaluation culture in the country. EAB formally registered with the Civil Society Organization Authority, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan as a Mutual Benefit Organization in December, 2017.

Moving forward, EAB is expected to play a critical role in sustainably promoting and increasing the demand for evaluations while the government bodies, parliamentarians, academia, international development partners, media and other stakeholders have a key role in building an enabling environment for evaluation.

CoE is a platform that facilitates knowledge exchange between parties interested in evaluation in South Asia. By interacting with each other in-person and through electronic media, the CoE intends to expand the knowledge and experience base of individuals as well as of the region as a whole, and to provide opportunities to share these experiences with the international evaluation community.