From Real-Time Evaluation to Real-Time Learning

Buchanan-Smith, M. and Morrison-Métois, S.
Publication language
Date published
21 Oct 2021
Research, reports and studies

The scale and nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has required development and humanitarian actors to swiftly adapt their ways of working. The need to understand, analyse and act in rapidly changing and unfamiliar contexts has renewed interest in Real-Time Learning – and in its relevance for humanitarian response. This paper reviews the RTL approaches that have been adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic and draws out lessons and implications for future evaluation practice.

This paper is intended to support development and humanitarian managers, evaluation functions and evaluators as they plan and implement Real-Time Evaluations and Real-Time Learning exercises of their respective organisation’s COVID-19 response, and of future humanitarian action. The paper:

  • Briefly describes RTE practice in the humanitarian sector and how it differs from other forms of evaluation.
  • Explains why humanitarian agencies developed a range of RTL exercises beyond conventional RTEs to meet their organisation’s learning needs during the COVID-19 response.
  • Reviews the practice and approaches of different humanitarian organisations in conducting a range of RTL exercises, to offer practical examples, advice and insights for evaluation practitioners, with key messages drawn from the growing body of such exercises.
  • Concludes by demonstrating how COVID-19 RTL exercises have advanced learning practices within the humanitarian sector.