Evaluation Scholarship and Capacity Building – Celebrating the International Year of Evaluation at CREST
This year is the International Year of Evaluation. CREST collaborated with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the ZENEX Foundation to celebrate ‘Building Evaluation Scholarship and Capacity in South Africa’ to mark this international celebration. From the 26th of June to the 2nd of July, the three partners offered workshops and presentations from both local and international evaluators. Members of academia, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) students, NGO staff and M&E practitioners from various organisations across South Africa attended. This conference came at an opportune time as the debate on evaluator competencies in South African and the rest of African is very topical.
Presenters at Stellenbosch: 27 June to 1 July
There were 12 presentations delivered during the Stellenbosch University sessions that were followed by engaging plenary discussions. Gail Campbell (ZENEX Foundation) shared some insight on the use of evaluations in the donor world. Prof Mouton’s (CREST) presentation questioned the ‘gold standard’ status of randomised control trials for impact evaluation and posited case studies as an alternative methodology. Dr Wildschut (CREST) discussed the challenges faced by academic programmes in preparing evaluators for the competencies that they need in the work place. Her presentation showed the growing demand for M&E academic qualifications as shown by the growing number of applications received by CREST.
Dr Berry (Claremont Graduate University) discussed evaluation-training programmes at Claremont Graduate University. She discussed the structure of the training programmes and the need to prepare graduates for the work place. Dr Evergreen (Michigan, USA) presented on how to present data effectively. Her presentation provided examples of how Excel and Microsoft Power Point can be used by evaluator to present data effectively. Ms Goremucheche (CREST) reflected on her journey as an emerging evaluator. She discussed the difference between the competencies gained through graduate training and what is required in the work place.
CREST M&E Alumni share their evaluation experiences
In his closing remarks, Prof Mouton acknowledged the five CREST alumni who were part of the presenters. Their presentations not only showcased CREST alumni, they also allowed the alumni to share their experiences and lessons and inspire other M&E students. Mr Leslie reflected on his journey as an evaluator – from an M&E qualification to being a consultant and being part of the Board of SAMEA. Dr Kerry’s presentation focussed on building evaluation capacity at the individual, at the meso and the macro levels. In her presentation, Ms Kasere shared the challenges and lessons learnt from an internal evaluation of a nationwide anti-corruption campaign. Ms Chigwidi presented on her experience of conducting an evaluation of a project aimed at commercialization of smallholder rural farmers in Zimbabwe. Ms Mkhize presented on the evaluation of a project implemented to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and encourage adherence to medication in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Her presentation discussed some of the contextual challenges in evaluating HIV/AIDS projects.
Main themes arising out of the conference
From the presentations and vibrant discussion during the Question and Answer sessions, the following was clear:
- Evaluation scholarship and capacity building should be a priority for South Africa and the rest of Africa
- There is a gap between the existing capacity and the required capacity in the evaluation field
- Academic programmes are essential in building capacity in M&E. However, they can only offer limited support in preparing graduates for the wide-range of contextual challenges they experience in the field
- Emerging evaluators therefore need the support of experienced mentors
- Organisational culture regarding the placement and importance of M&E has to be changed
- Dialogue has to continue among academia, practitioners and emerging evaluators to continuously build capacity
It is clear following the feedback from participants, that more collaborative events which build the capacity of M&E students and practitioners are required on a more regular basis.