Examining Conditions that Influence Evaluation use within a Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization in Burkina Faso (West Africa)

  • Léna D’Ostie-Racinea
  • Christian DagenaisEmail author
  • Valéry Ridde
Original Paper


Program evaluation can support capacity building and inform practice and policy. Yet long-term efforts to ensure evaluation use (EU) in the humanitarian sector are seldom documented, leaving much uncertainty about EU conditions. This study examined conditions that influenced EU by stakeholders of a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) in Burkina Faso striving to base its health care program on solid evidence. It used 36 qualitative semi-structured interviews and a single case study design to document stakeholders’ (n = 26) perception of EU conditions. Analyses focussed on characteristics of five broad conditions of research use previously documented. Results demonstrate that EU was facilitated by intended users with proactive attitudes, research experience, and willingness to participate in program evaluations. Also helpful was an organizational culture that valued learning, feedback, and accountability, wherein leaders collaborated toward common goals. Evaluation-based knowledge that met information needs and that was actionable, contextualized, and quickly accessible enhanced EU. Knowledge transfer strategies promoting EU were diverse, participatory, adapted to needs, and regularly followed up. Evaluators who were trusted, experienced, credible, and adaptable, promoted EU most effectively. Conversely, EU was compromised when intended users felt distrusting, uninformed, or unable to engage in program evaluations. Knowledge contradicting expectations or deemed inapplicable impeded EU. Adapting knowledge transfer strategies required time and interactions. Initially, evaluations were not sufficiently adapted and put into plain language, which hampered EU. EU conditions are numerous and intricately interrelated, but interpersonal relationships, trust, and effective communication are key conditions for evaluators and stakeholders wishing to promote EU.


Program evaluation Evaluation use/utilization Research use/utilization Knowledge translation Utilisation condition West Africa 



Over the course of this study, Léna D’Ostie-Racine received funding from the Global Health Research Capacity Strengthening Program (GHR-CAPS) a partnership of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Québec Population Health Research Network. She was later also funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et culture. The authors wish to express their utmost gratitude for the kind assistance and proactive participation of HELP managers and staff, the external evaluators, the district health management teams of Dori and Sebba in Burkina Faso, and the ECHO representatives, who together made this study possible. The authors also wish to thank Ludovic Queuille for his support throughout the study and for his insightful comments on previous drafts of the present article. The authors are also thankful to Didier Dupont for his consultations on qualitative analyses and to Karine Racicot for her remarkable help in reviewing and clarifying the application of the codebook. We also wish to thank all those, including Zoé Ouangré and Xavier Barsalou-Verge, who helped transcribe the interviews, which contained a vast array of African, Canadian and European accents. Our gratitude also goes out to all colleagues who provided support and insights throughout the study and/or commented on drafts of this article.


This work was supported by the European Commission (ECHO), which had no influence on the conduct of this evaluation. The first author received financial support from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC), from the Global Health Research Capacity Strengthening Program (GHR-CAPS) a partnership of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Québec Population Health Research Network and support from Équipe RENARD.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Decaration of Conflicting Interest

The first author has benefited from HELP’s logistical assistance. The second and third authors have both worked as consultants for HELP. The funders and the NGO HELP did not take part in decisions on the study design, data collection, or analysis, nor in the preparation or publication of the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MontrealMontreal (Quebec)Canada
  2. 2.IRD (French Institute for Research on Sustainable Development), CEPED (IRD-Université Paris Descartes)Universités Paris Sorbonne Cités, ERL INSERM SAGESUDParisFrance
  3. 3.University of Montreal Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM)MontrealCanada

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