Valuing and implementing for ex-post sustainability, evaluating natural capital and externalities


2023 ends with two sets of excellent sustainability practices coming out of Valuing Voices. There are also unanswered valuation questions for us to address in 2024 post-Climate Conference COP28.



1- Reminding readers of the Sustainability and Resilience Evaluation trainings (and four ex-posts: Samoa, Ecuador, and two Argentine ones), my great colleagues Meg Spearman and Mariana Vidal Merino and I did for the Adaptation Fund. Others will take our ground-truthing sustainability ratings and doing remote ex-post drafts forward as my 3-year consulting there has ended…


2- I am excited to share a chapter on evaluation competencies published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Evaluation. I share lessons from Valuing Voices’ 12 years of ex-post research and checklists created from what was sustained to inform current funding, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation for sustainability. The checklists also draw on lessons about exit from CDA and INTRAC and identify six evaluator capacities and awareness of one’s values. Thanks to Sanjeev Sridharan and team, here is the chapter: Fostering Values-Driven Sustainability Through an Ex-Post Capacities Lens.


These first two revolve around lessons from the past to benefit the future, which shows up in the concept of ‘Longtermism’, which those of us in global development assume and hope for but rarely confirm—namely, learning from our successes and failures in the present to help us invest better in our collective futures. Longtermism is “about taking seriously the sheer scale of the future, and how high the stakes might be in shaping it. It means thinking about the challenges we might face in our lifetimes that could impact civilisation’s whole trajectory and taking action to benefit not just the present generation, but all generations to come.” As ex-post evaluation work focuses on learning for donors and implementers and our accountability to national stakeholders (and appreciation of what emerged from their efforts in intervening years), “longtermism rests on the simple idea that future people matter.” 



3- How are invaluable assets such as clean air and vibrant nature (clean air, water, earth, trees, etc.)… valued? We seem to have much work to do regarding long-term values in the face of existential threats, as the UN’s COP28 has shown us. Thanks to Chloe Hill, who pointed to a website that makes nature’s values visible: This organization provides “a structured approach to valuation that helps decision-makers recognize the wide range of benefits provided by ecosystems and biodiversity, demonstrate their values in economic terms and, where appropriate, capture those values in decision-making.” They have interesting case studies, including using ‘natural capital accounting’ valuation of ecosystem services in South Africa. While the new Footprint Evaluation evaluates environmental sustainability in a very (too?) complex way, we need to evaluate the harm avoided and how to set a price for it; that is what Impact investors need.


We must address such finance questions arising from COP28 regarding how nature and the climate are monitored, evaluated, and valued economically. How should people in finance cost out benefits from not harming the climate and people? For instance, how do we value lungs not being hurt by smoke by using clean cookstoves? I have looked into ‘measuring externalities’ in the economics literature, and the best article I have found so far from 1980 is Measuring Externalities and Second Best Distortions in the Theory of Local Public Goods by Starrett, but the methods are theoretical and not (yet?) useable by today’s investors.


Feedback and advice? Email me at, please… Happy Holidays 2023 and Happy 2024!

31 years of Valuing Voices of national participants, project partners, donors and technical staff. Let’s have sustained impact!