International development evaluation with a twist.
I am Niki Wood: a shameless evaluation enthusiast.
I specialise in weaving together systems-thinking, complexity science, and behaviour change theory into accessible approaches and tools for programme teams who use them to advance the well-being of populations across the globe.
I’ve been working in international development for my whole career and found my passion in the space of monitoring and evaluation. Tragic, some may say, but everyone has their thing and this happens to be mine.
I have worked across the world undertaking evaluative work, or training others to do it, with trainees including NATO, British Embassies, Bank of England, PA Consulting and DFID’s Evaluation Cadre & their EPIC team (formerly).
But this is not a CV spiel, you can go to LinkedIn for that. This page is more of an introduction into who I am and why you may have fallen onto this site.
I am based in Sweden, living with my partner and our cats, working as the MEL Director for my international development organisation. I enjoy bullet journaling, exploring the world, and refining my Swedish. Most importantly, I am an evaluator through-and-through, spending spare hours reading, researching, or thinking. My current hobby horses are bringing trauma neuropsychology into evaluation, and applied behavioural science.
I truly love what I do. The art of predicting, interpreting, and analysing change never ceases to enthral me. Every day I work with people trying to deliver positive impact, and my job is to empower them to achieve the best they can. It has also served my adventurous soul well. I have waded into rural Tanzania to unpick how capacity building has improved climate change analysis, and meandered the streets of Dushanbe to understand if strengthening geological maps supports economic growth.
What I struggle with, is traditional approaches. Anyone who has ever worked with me or been in one of my workshops is familiar with my thoughts on this: traditional evaluation and development approaches just do not work. We cannot keep applying simple, linear methods when working in complex situations, yet I still see this with alarming frequency. On the occasions I do see a complex approach, it is more often than not incomprehensible to programme teams. So much so, that they feel overwhelmed and ignore them.
That’s what I have been aiming to change for the past few years, and where this website comes in.
- Tools can be sophisticated and accessible.
- Workshops and trainings can be informative and fun.
- We should evaluate with not at teams.
My passion is creating informative tools and methods that are usable by anyone who needs them. I also love telling stories to explain complex concepts. Many of these have already gained traction within the sector, and I know most of my trainees will never think about indicators in isolation of sea monsters ever again (!)
I am making my tools, ways of explaining, and thinking available in response to demand, as well as upcoming papers they are featured in. But it’s predominantly in the hope they will come in useful to those who need them. Those who were where I was eight years ago, or who may not realise it yet. Accessibility is a barrier to growth, and I want to do my part in changing that. Now, if someone wants to use them, they can.
I may like to do things or explaining things differently, hence the name of this website, but I don’t believe what I am doing is “radical”. It’s simply a response to what I believe teams need, but it seems to be not all that common based on the level of request for me to share my thinking or ways of explaining things somewhere accessible. That is to say, some of what I have to say is not new at all. However, I will explain it through wild analogies involving giraffes or geological jokes and this is something that resonated with people as well. I was asked to put these ways of explaining existing ideas up somewhere as well. So I have!
So, please interact. Use the tools and approaches. Let me know how you got on. All I ask in return is that you credit me by linking back to this site.
I also welcome any input from the development community, and beyond – and I’m always keen to have my thinking challenged.
I hope you find everything you need – and more.