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Last updated: 14/01/2006

Methodological bases
The actors, their roles (Who?)


The reference group


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What is this?

A small group gathering the services concerned by the intervention and possibly other stakeholders. One or more experts may also be invited to participate.

The reference group is an interface between the evaluation manager and the external evaluation team. Its members help the external evaluation team to identify data sources and to access them. They validate the evaluation questions, and discuss the conclusions and recommendations.

The reference group allows the variety of points of view on the evaluated intervention to be expressed.

What is its role?

Reference group members:

  • Discuss and comment on the terms of reference drawn up by the evaluation manager.
  • Aggregate and summarise the views of the Commission services and act as an interface between the evaluation team and the services, thereby supplementing bilateral contacts.
  • Ensure that the evaluation team has access to and consults all information sources and documentation on activities undertaken.
  • Validate the evaluation questions.
  • Discuss and comment on notes and reports produced by the evaluation team. Comments by individual members of the reference group are compiled by the evaluation manager and subsequently transmitted to the evaluation team.
  • Assist in feedback of the findings, conclusions and recommendations from the evaluation.

Whom to invite and how?

Different types of actor can be invited to participate in the reference group. If the evaluation is managed at headquarters, membership includes:

  • Services of the Commission concerned by the intervention, including the Delegation concerned in case of a country/region level evaluation.
  • Specialists on a sector or a cross-cutting issue within the Commission.
  • Embassy of the partner country in the case of a country level evaluation.

If the evaluation is managed in the partner country, membership may extend to:

  • Government services.
  • Selected development partners.
  • Selected civil society organisations.
  • Experts

Experience has shown that it is preferable for the group to be limited in size (10 to 12 members) if it is to function effectively.

After identifying the services, institutions or organisations to invite to the reference group, the head of the service managing the evaluation sends them an invitation to:

  • Officially announce the launching of the evaluation
  • Request that they appoint one person as a member of the reference group.


When should it be asked to meet and how should it be involved?

The reference group is generally involved in the following way:

Stage Meeting Role
Terms of reference   Comments
Engagement of the external evaluation team   Comments
Evaluation questions 1 Validation
Inception report   Comments
First phase report (desk) 2 Discussion, comments
Field phase debriefing 3 Discussion
Version 1 of the final report, conclusions and recommendations 4 Discussion, comments



Opening the evaluation process

In addition to inputs made by the reference group, the evaluation may benefit from a wider variety of views through other channels like:

  • Consultation of key stakeholders by the evaluation team in the first stage of the process
  • Gathering of participatory workshops, focus groups or expert panel(s) during the evaluation process
  • Discussion of the draft evaluation report in a widely attended seminar in the partner country (when relevant).