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How to evaluate human rights support? 

What impact do human right NGOs have? 

If you work on human rights and are eager to know what is /not working or what impact you have, check this out. The notes are based on a debate today with an informal group of Czech organisations focusing on human rights in Caucasus. For example, what if a change in law, which we lobby for, ultimately negatively affects the people we aim to support? What if people get used to our minigrants and stop engaging without them? How to move away from counting numbers of trained activists to more meaningful indicators of change? To what extent to dive into the psychology of traumatized activists or their families to “measure project impact”? And how to involve different actors, including the (potential) human right activists, in decision making about our projects and approaches?  

Lessons learnt from the Czech NGOs 

While there was no obvious, straightforward answer, a number of good practices were summarized: 

  • Clarify the purpose (of baseline, monitoring, evaluation) – what do we need to know, how will the answer help us, who will use this data, how can we all learn. For more details on planning an evaluation, see the "evaluation" guidelins. For planning and monitoring, see guidelines "setting-up systems". 
  • Take enough time and get help to create powerful questions. Check for example this guide or this guide. 
  • Baseline helps – map the knowledge, skills and attitudes of those who are expected to change to have a comparison after 1, 2, 3 years or even later. 
  • Have both quantitative and qualitative indicators (see guidelines on this web) to assess changes you make. Number of participants or action plans is not enough; it is the content and influence of the participants that matter. 
  • On the other hand, effectiveness and impact can be assessed even without a baseline, check the Most Significant Change (See this Guide, the ProLearn case which explains how we applied it in India and this video about it), or RAPID Outcome Assessment (see this for mapping of the stakeholders, policies, project interventions and how they influence each other) 
  • Utilise established platforms / meetings / conferences for planning or evaluation. For example, World Café, Open Space (check Art of Hosting) or Evaluation Café (here) may help if prepared and facilitated well. To shift from problem solving and focus on what works and how to move forward, check the Appreciative Inquiry (again this guide for instance). It can also help in developing powerful questions. Such forms are useful also for participatory evaluation, when actors influence the planning, data collection as well as conclusions and recommendations.
  • Combine internal and external evaluation based on the available resources and need for an external perspective. Utilise local evaluators or combined teams (international and local evaluators), they are available in Caucasus.

Example of an evaluation

Check the recent evaluation of human rights support in Georgia on this web for more lessons learnt. See the case of Nesehnutí and ARSMIRA (page 41 of the quoted report). Organisations evaluated the progress in advocacy and refocused it from criminal offence of defamation to information access. This helped to address the root cause of journalists´ struggle and to weaken their persecution.Crossing fingers!

Need more help?

For more methodological help, go to or to the evaluation bible Road to Results (see links).Let me know your experiences!