The Problem: Insufficient Evaluation Supply compared with a growing demand
Evaluation is key to promote the SDGs and to help governments and organizations around the world achieve their programmatic goals and develop crisis preparedness. There is a growing demand for evaluation and a recognition that, without M&E, accountability, learning, and evidence based decision-making are in jeopardy.
Nevertheless, the supply of skilled M&E professionals especially in the most poor and fragile regions of the world is insufficient and, unless we build the capacity of a new generation of local evaluators, it will be very difficult to produce evaluations capable of accelerating development and fast-tracking our road to the SDGs.
The solution: Evaluation Capacity Development
The discussion on how to develop the capacity of evaluation professionals is not new and has its roots in decades of professionalization debates. Several experts argue that 'evaluation' is not yet a profession because it does not correspond to a defined study subject and has no predefined path to experience. Others argue that being a “true” evaluator requires substantive life-experience, questioning the very reasoning of “young and emerging evaluators”.
Irrespective of any controversy, we all agree that it is critical to ensure that any one who does evaluation, seeks as much as possible, to develop relevant, accurate, context informed, and useful evaluations. This is the ultimate goal of P2p+: “to equip evaluators with strong values, knowledge and skills in evaluation that support the likelihood of quality and useful evaluations” (IOCE).
Efforts to improve the quality of evaluations include several elements:
(1) In the quest to develop evaluation expertise around the world, evaluators have gathered and built a community, which yielded a panoply of institutional structures that provide discussion and facilitate networking. Among these are national and regional Volunteer Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs), global actors such as EvalPartners and IDEAS, transnational organizations such as United Nations Evaluation Group and OCDE, and ministries in different countries.
(2) Considering the ripple effect evaluations can have, these communities have developed guiding principles and quality and ethical standards to be considered as foundations throughout the evaluation process. Several capability and competency frameworks have been developed to define what knowledge, skills and competencies evaluators should have to exercise the profession. The United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) proposed a global professional evaluation framework, as a starting point for conceptualizing professionalization. This framework was inspired by the capacity building framework defined by UNICEF, encompassing capacities at individual, institutional and global levels. (UNEG, 2016).
(3) In addition to communities, standards and competencies, different education programmes have been developed to build evaluative competencies, such as academic training (mostly from universities), courses (IPDET, Clear, etc.), professional development workshops and webinars, and on the job opportunities. Some programmes offer official recognition of the knowledge, skills and experience, including certifications. Finally, knowledge and good practices are disseminated through conferences, newsletters, journals, books, articles, etc.
(4) There are also specific initiatives, tailored to new professionals. Groups of young and emerging evaluators (YEEs) have assembled into networks, such as EvalYouth. Their activities are manifold and go from concrete job opportunities (e.g. internships, traineeships, etc.), to mentoring programs, specialized webinars, awards and competitions, among others. The YEE are also stimulated to engage in VOPEs and prepare themselves to be the VOPE's future leaders.
Despite all international, regional, and national networks supporting YEEs, there are still areas that remain uncovered.
There are several gaps in the preparation of a YEE that are difficult to identify and, when not properly addressed, may cause deficiencies in the quality of professional performance over time. The process of building evaluation capacity is not straight-forward. It depends on multiple factors, such as the type of needs, ambitions, training, skills, and experiences required for the new path.
A career as an evaluator can have multiple starting points and happen at different moments in a professional life. There are colleagues who begin their M&E careers when recently graduating, there are others who move at an advanced stage, transitioning from another area of expertise. Whatever the starting point is, navigating existing M&E knowledge from scratch can be overwhelming.
Colleagues interested in pursuing evaluation as a career often feel lost and insecure, lacking knowledge on the steps to start their journey. Among other questions, emerging professionals doubt the extent to which evaluation is actually the field they want to pursue; they wonder what level of skills, training, and working experience are needed; what and where they can study; where they can find job opportunities; and if they are likely to become successful. YEES also have technical questions around the choice of the most appropriate concepts, methods, and how to deal with clients and teams or even ethical dilemmas.
P2p+ offers a safe space that promotes career development and provides technical guidance to the growing community of emerging evaluators. It lends a hand to curious minds who are eager to navigate the evaluation profession.
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