We conducted a field-based evaluation of a malaria outbreak detection and response surveillance system in two districts of Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe. National-level evaluations, such as those commonly recommended by the World Health Organization, may fail to identify capacity improvements for detecting and responding to outbreaks. We designed an assessment beginning at the clinic level and moving up to the national level rather than only assessing barriers and facilitators of timely surveillance at the national level. Outbreaks begin and are first detected at the local level, and the barriers and facilitators that manifest at a clinic level are very different from those that can be assessed and evaluated at the national level. This case draws upon best practices in conducting surveillance system evaluations with a focus on understanding how assessments at the local (clinic or field-based) level can improve national-level evaluation strategies conducted in an international setting.