Client: Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) an agency of National Treasury
Duration: March - June 2016
Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) was appointed by GTAC and the Isandla Institute to conduct a strategic review of Phase 1 of the Economies of Regions Learning Network (ERLN). The ERLN aims to build capacity and to support the implementation of governments’ economic development agenda, and focuses on supporting economic development in sub-national spaces and regions which play an important role in cultivating economic development in South Africa.
Through its convening role, GTAC implements innovative approaches for inter-and intra-government engagement in sub-regions, via the three key programme aspects: Learning Network Meetings; a Knowledge Centre; and knowledge generation through research.
Piloted in 2012, the first phase of the ERLN was coming to an end in 2016. The purpose of the strategic review was to learn from the successes and challenges of the first phase of the ERLN to inform the design the second phase and to ensure continued and improved impact.
The purpose of the evaluation included aspects of accountability and learning, and a summative aspect was also included. The evaluation addressed issues of relevance, effectiveness, impact, efficiency and sustainability, as well as some ERLN-specific questions. The strategic review was conducted through a clarificatory and process evaluation: the Theory of Change for the programme was reviewed and updated, the implementation of the programme was reviewed; and to a limited extent evidence of early programme impact was collected.
A mixed methods approach was followed, which allowed for both primary and secondary data collection and analysis. Well-kept and complete programme documentation was helpful in the document review. Primary data was collected through both quantitative and qualitative methodology.
The entire ERLN database received a survey (mostly quantitative data, but also qualitative data). Rich qualitative data was collected through a combination of focus group interviews, face-to-face and telephone interviews, as well as observations. Aspects of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was incorporated in the methodology where possible, albeit to a limited extent.
Lessons learnt were documented in the report and discussed with the client, and the evaluation concluded that the ERLN is relevant and useful, and that the ERLN plays a niche role in the economic development landscape. The network has achieved what it set out to do, and managed to focus on pertinent issues related to economic development. The evaluation also found the programme to be highly efficient.
While the scope of the evaluation was focused on immediate outcomes, there were early indications of achieving systemic impact. It was also found that the programme has started addressing sustainability issues in an innovative manner, and that this, together with the relevance of the programme and interest from stakeholders creates high potential for sustainability.
 Government’s development agenda is articulated in the National Development Plan, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path.