Steven [user:field_middlename] Lam

Steven Lam

PhD candidate
University of Guelph

More about me

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, where I am a CIHR Doctoral Scholar. My research explores ways to integrate equity and climate change into all evaluations, regardless of the type of program. In doing so, I hope evaluations can better support program decision-making that leads to equitable and environmentally sustainable outcomes.

I also work as a consultant for various non-profit organizations in Canada and internationally. I bring skills in program evaluation, applied research, and knowledge synthesis, especially in the areas of public health, food security, and climate change. I hold the Credential Evaluator designation from the Canadian Evaluation Society.

My contributions

    • Hi Serge and all,

      Yes, I try to integrate these themes into all evaluations. Clients are often very open to learning about ‘for whom’ their programs work. This information helps them know whether their program supports different groups of people.

      In terms of environment, there tends to be a bit of hesitancy at first, as the link between program activities and environmental implications can be fuzzy. It could be that there are no implications. But asking about the environment provides a starting point for discussion.

      As Silva noted, there have been many efforts to promote the measurement of social impacts. The UN system typically does this by using a human rights/gender equality lens (see UNEG Ethical Guidelines 2008 and UN-SWAP 2006). Many UN agencies also outline this need in their evaluation policies.

      Similarly, there are many guidelines for mainstreaming environmental and climate change considerations into programs and policies (UNDP did a stocktake in 2010). UN agencies typically speak to this theme in evaluation guidance documents.

      While it would help if TORs asked and budgeted for questions around social and environmental impacts of programming, I agree with Silva that we should advocate for them if these elements are not there.

      A challenge I initially faced was, “well, how do we do this?” I’m currently finishing up my dissertation focused on answering this question. Examining previous evaluations of food security programs, I’m finding lots of evidence showing us how, why, and in what context we should integrate these themes.

      We should engage with methodological developments from the literature and try them out. Ask questions such as: how do different groups experience this program? And how has climate change affected people's experiences? Share your process and learnings.

      Evaluations could play in promoting equity and environmental sustainability, and we must. Steven

    • Recently I have been grappling with a similar set of questions so thank you, Carlos, for posing them. Drawing on my experience in facilitating several ToC workshops, I would say ToC is a useful approach to evaluation. Value is realized mainly in its process, of bringing participants from diverse disciplines and sectors together, of co-mapping systems change, of identifying areas where the program might influence change pathways, and of highlighting priority areas for monitoring. Some important context though, is that many of these participants have never heard of ToC before (and it doesn't help that ToC does not translate well in different languages), so some value might be attributed to its novelty. Anyway, while other planning tools might also have been appropriate, I find ToCs to be particularly helpful for programs that have multiple interacting components, diverse stakeholder perspectives, and uncertainty in outcomes, which are characteristic of many food security initiatives today.