12 June 2023

The inaugural session of the CREST Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Learning Collective took place on 26 May 2023. A total of 44 participants from the CREST M&E alumni and current students attended the session that was facilitated by Dr Lauren Wildschut, the director of the M&E Programme, and supported by Ms Tikwiza Silubonde and Dr Dominic Okoliko. The first session commenced with an introduction to the CREST M&E Learning Collective which aims to:

  1. Cultivate a learning culture to ensure CREST alumni, students and staff stay up to date on the knowledge base of evaluation
  2. Provide an opportunity for participants to deepen their knowledge of monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and
  3. Engage in critical discussions about best practices, challenges, and emerging trends in the M&E field.

The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in evaluation was the thematic focus of the first meeting. Participants reflected on the three blogs and video provided and engaged in a lively discussion around four key questions related to AI and evaluation.

Participants shared their experiences of using AI in their M&E work, showcasing the diverse applications of AI in evaluation processes – from using AI for language proofreading and translation, to leveraging AI-powered tools for brainstorming, idea testing, and data management. The discussion also touched upon the concerns evaluators have regarding the use of AI, including access and the digital divide, biases within language models, the potential for AI machines to make up content, and the importance of critical reflection in evaluation. There was emphasis on the need to balance the efficiency of AI with the unique skills and expertise of human evaluators.

The session concluded with a positive consensus on the value of the learning collective, with participants expressing their appreciation for the meaningful engagement and knowledge-sharing. Participants suggested the use of online productivity platforms to enhance material sharing and foster continued engagement among participants.

The 2nd CREST M&E Learning Collective is scheduled for Friday, 15 September 2023 from 13:00 to 14:00

Stay tuned for further updates and join us in exploring other interesting issues in the dynamic world of M&E.

For more information and to stay connected, please reach out to Tikwiza Silubonde at tikwiza@sun.ac.za.