Research

I am an evaluation researcher working at the intersection of health and the environment.

My research draws on methods and theories from health and social sciences to contribute knowledge in three main areas:

  • Clarifying the link between climate change, the environment, and health
  • Integrating climate change within program planning and evaluation
  • Informing the development of evaluation methods

ENHANCING EVALUATIONS OF PROGRAMS OPERATING UNDER A CHANGING CLIMATE

The intensifying climate crisis threatens to reverse progress made by development programs in achieving food security and other health goals. While learnings from evaluation can improve the resilience of such programs, minimal guidance exists on how to account for climate change within evaluation. My CIHR-funded doctoral research aimed to address this knowledge gap. I conducted several knowledge syntheses and a qualitative evaluation study of an ongoing food safety program in Vietnam. By identifying, testing, and reflecting on strategies for integrating climate change into evaluation processes, my dissertation research contributed important insights into how evaluations can support climate-responsive programming.

Related Publications:

Lam S, Dodd W, Wyngaarden S, Skinner K, Papadopoulos A, Harper SL. (2021). How and why are Theory of Change and Realist Evaluation used in food security contexts? A scoping reviewEvaluation and Program Planning. 89: 102008.

Lam S, Dodd W, Harper SL. (2021). COP26: How the world will measure progress on the Paris climate agreement and keep countries accountableThe Conversation Canada. *Picked up by National Post and World Economic Forum.

Lam S, Dodd W, Berrang-Ford L, Ford J, Skinner K, Papadopoulos A, Harper SL. (2021). How are climate actions evaluated? A review of United Nations food security evaluationsGlobal Food Security. 28: 100509.

Lam S, Dodd W, Skinner K, Papadopoulos A, Zivot C, Ford J, Garcia P, IHACC Research Team, Harper SL. (2019). Community-based monitoring of Indigenous food security in a changing climate: Global trends and future directions. Environ. Res. Lett. 14(7): 073002.


MAINSTREAMING GENDER EQUITY INTO EVALUATION

Gender norms, roles, and relations are important factors determining people’s vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. The important interactions between gender, climate change, and health mean that including a gender lens in programming is crucial. A closely related theme of my research is to development approaches for mainstreaming gender equities into evaluation. To better understand how gender equity could be integrated into evaluation, I synthesized case studies from the evaluation literature. For evaluation to support equity goals, I suggest evaluations explore programming experiences of diverse groups of genders, engage with evaluation stakeholders, consider the larger socio-cultural-political context of programming, encourage the use of evaluation findings, and provide actionable recommendations.

Related Publications:

Lam S, Dodd W, Whynot J, Skinner K. (2019). How is gender being addressed in the international development evaluation literature? A meta-evaluation. Research Evaluation. 28(2): 158-168.


DOING EVALUATION DIFFERENTLY

Recognizing that the world is constantly changing, so should the tools we use to evaluate and improve programs. An important aspect of my work is enhancing evaluation methodologies. My contributions to this area include systematic reviews characterizing evaluation approaches and how they have been used. This research provides important insights into when certain evaluation tools should be used, how to use them, and what to look out for.

Related publications:

Lam S, Skinner K. (2021). The use of evaluability assessments in improving future evaluations: a scoping review of 10 years of literature (2008-2018)American Journal of Evaluation. 42(4): 523-540.

Lam S. (2020). Toward learning from change pathways: reviewing Theory of Change and its discontentsCanadian Journal of Program Evaluation. 35(2): 69535.