A recently published IAES evaluation report concludes that the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform is relevant and has attained significant achievements in a short period of time. However, the Platform also has unrealized potential, including for stronger partnerships with regional organizations, governments, national agricultural research and extension systems and non-governmental organizations.
In 2022, CGIAR’s Independent Advisory and Evaluation Service (IAES) commenced an evaluation of the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform. Consistent with IAES's mandate, its independent external evaluation set out to contribute to institutional learning and provide evidence for steering CGIAR toward delivering on its Impact Area for Gender Equality, Youth and Social Inclusion.
The evaluation, which employed a feminist evaluation approach and sought to engage voices less heard, aimed to assess the GENDER Impact Platform’s progress from January 2020 to October 2022, recognizing that the Platform during this time frame worked toward primary outcomes scheduled for completion by 2028–2030. Objectives also included documenting lessons and best practices that can be used by other CGIAR Impact Platforms and providing forward-looking recommendations for the GENDER Impact Platform.
Key findings: Highly effective, with some unrealized potential
The evaluation team sought to answer key questions to assess the GENDER Impact Platform’s progress under five broad themes: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, and sustainability and learning.
On relevance, the evaluation found that “the GENDER [Impact] Platform is relevant and well placed to shift CGIAR into a stronger leadership position on gender equality (and potentially on youth and social inclusion) related to agriculture in food systems.” The report highlights that the Platform is not always able to realize its full potential, partly because CGIAR leadership has not yet engaged the Platform in “key strategic discussions where gender plays a critical role.”
On effectiveness, the report states that “[t]he Platform demonstrates significant achievements in a short space of time.” It goes on to highlight the Platform’s extensive resource hub and the enormous volume of evidence on gender and women’s empowerment in agri-food systems that has been synthesized and generated. The evaluation finds that the Platform has successfully built alliances; refined and shared gender-specific methods and tools; and supported gender research and gender researchers in CGIAR.
On efficiency, a number of factors outside the control of the GENDER Impact Platform, but linked to CGIAR-level funding and administration, were found to adversely affect the work and efficiency of the Platform. On coherence, the evaluation looked at both internal and external coherence. Internally, it found the Platform to be wide-reaching, but with some data suggesting a need for continued building of internal linkages and support among gender researchers and non-gender researchers. Externally, the report highlights that positive linkages are being built or strengthened with various external organizations and stakeholders, but with potential to strengthen partnerships with regional organizations, governments, national agricultural research and extension systems and non-governmental organizations.
On sustainability and learning, the GENDER Impact Platform’s multipronged approach to achieving outcomes was found to strengthen its potential sustainability. However, several challenges were identified, including those related to funding uncertainty. Furthermore, it suggests that additional resources will be needed to pursue the Platform’s expanded mandate as an Impact Platform on not only gender equality, but also youth and social inclusion.
Recommendations for GENDER and for CGIAR
The evaluation report concludes with two sets of recommendations on how to strengthen the performance of the GENDER Impact Platform and deliver on CGIAR’s Impact Area for Gender Equality, Youth and Social Inclusion.
For action by the GENDER Impact Platform, the evaluation puts forward four recommendations:
#1: Strengthen partnerships, including by co-identifying and prioritizing research gaps and activities with key partners.
#2: Improve module coherence, including by expanding current engagements to further exploit potential for the whole Platform to inform pathways to sustainable, equitable outcomes.
#3: Track results, including through employing an M&E professional and using data on outputs and outcomes in day-to-day decision-making.
#4: Clarify the expanded Platform, including by making a decision and statement on how to engage with the expanded mandate on gender, youth and social inclusion.
For action by CGIAR management, the evaluation puts forward seven recommendations:
#5: Extend project timeframes by providing the Platform with three-year planning and operational timeframes.
#6: Reduce budget uncertainty, including by making financial decisions transparent and concrete and by providing three-year funding cycles.
#7: Allocate resources for the expanded mandate by increasing the Platform’s budget in line with its expanded thematic mandate.
#8: Use relevant metrics, including by developing indicators that can provide useful management information and by including engagement data in the M&E results framework.
#9: Recognize and support gender researchers, including by investing in career development for gender researchers and by developing career streams that separately identify science and management roles, competencies and skill levels.
#10: Adopt inclusive decision-making, including by actively involving the GENDER Impact Platform in CGIAR’s strategic decision-making processes to inform critical decision-making points.
#11: Modify the reporting structure by having the GENDER Impact Platform report at a higher level and/or have a direct link to the executive management team.
Toward a more impactful GENDER Impact Platform
The CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform’s management team has identified concrete steps to take up the evaluation’s recommendations.
Immediate actions by the Platform have included elevating the importance of partnerships, particularly with national agricultural research and extension systems, for example via the 2023 GENDER conference jointly hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Other efforts already in motion include hiring additional resources to elaborate the Platform’s focus on monitoring and evaluation and developing background papers on youth and social inclusion to inform its expanded mandate. Future envisioned actions include developing an investable 2024-2030 strategy to help mitigate funding uncertainties; improving indicators and performance monitoring on gender at the CGIAR level; and increasing the Platform's role in developing CGIAR’s 2025-2027 research portfolio.
These efforts by the Platform are part of what will allow the Platform to realize its full potential and in the future better guide CGIAR toward maximum impact on gender equality, opportunities for youth and social inclusion in agri-food systems.