Mentoring in evaluation & communication: A Trojan horse for adaptive management

DECI-4 Blog

Mentoring in evaluation & communication: A Trojan horse for adaptive management

By Ricardo Ramirez and Dal Brodhead, DECI-4.

Our newly released publication provides guidance in capacity development in evaluation and communication that enhances adaptive management. It is the result of several years of action-research provided by the DECI project supporting IDRC-funded researchers in the Global South.

This guide is meant for facilitators of capacity building and organizational learning. The group includes professionals from various fields, including evaluation, communication, organizational learning, adaptive management, and multi-stakeholder planning. Those with a background in evaluation and in communication will find it most relevant.

The guide shares the story of how mentoring in evaluation and communication with selected research groups across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, unfolded over a four-year time frame.  The authors are part of the DECI Project (Designing Evaluation and Communication for Impact), a combined technical support and research project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The project partners have included applied research projects; community based social innovators; and non-profit groups working to support social and environmental policy and practice change in a number of countries.


A unique feature of the DECI project is that the project itself has a dual purpose: aside from the mentoring support to project partners, there is a research component concentrating on how best to provide capacity building in evaluation and communication. This duality of purposes has caused the team to periodically pause and question what they are doing, how they are progressing and what might be learned from assisting partners to design their own strategies. This research purpose enables the team to ‘learn by doing’ with partners and makes DECI a living lab to support the adaptation of mentoring practices to different contexts.

This guide is based on five case studies emanating from the last four years of the DECI project working with IDRC partners around the world:

  • Africa: Research ICT Africa (RIA) in South Africa, and the Centre for Intellectual Property, and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) in Kenya.
  • Latin America: Derechos Digitales (DD) in Chile, and Centro Latam Digital (CLD) in Mexico, and
  • Asia: LIRNEasia in Sri Lanka.

The case studies illustrate how evaluation designs often address several evaluation uses in tandem.  Examples of uses include: the verification of achievements, a reflection on processes or methods, the effectiveness of networking, and the extent to which outcomes or results were accomplished. Similarly, the communication strategies can address complementary purposes, such as stakeholder engagement, knowledge exchange through networks or between individuals, promoting an initiative, dissemination of findings among diverse audiences, knowledge management for influencing policies, etc. In most of our cases, opportunities have emerged to weave together both the evaluation and communication fields.

The guide includes a capacity building facilitation framework that summarizes its contents and the lessons from several years of action-research.   The authors write: “We see evaluation and communication as a Trojan horse for enabling adaptive management; both have a concrete role and purpose at the start that gives us an entry point for organizational learning which reaches well beyond these two areas.”   As of April 2022, a new phase of DECI focusing on adaptive management has started with funding from IDRC’s Democratic and Inclusive Governance (DIG) Program.

The guide is the third in a series available free of charge in English, French and Spanish from the publication section of the DECI website: