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"Diversity in evaluation: what is it means, why it is important and how we achieve it?”

We held first  2018 Eval Café on 25 June on the topic of diversity within the evaluation sector. The eval café was hosted at HSRC in Pretoria with remote connection to Cape Town and Durban.

The Eval Café grappled with the following:

  • What did diversity in evaluation sector mean? Was it about diversifying political and ideological orientation, was it about creating space for new entrants to the evaluation sector? was it about creating space for young graduates to enter the sector and grow in their career? Or was it about having different racial groups represented in the evaluation sector? was it about everything?
  •  Why was it important? What was the value to the growth of the profession? Was it important to society? To policy? To learning?
  • What should SAMEA be doing to encourage diversification in the evaluation sector in south Africa? Should it be doing something?
  • Is there a role for government? In what way should government be engaged in this conversation?
  • What is the role of university and other institutions of higher learning?

The discussion was led by a presentation of a study done for Twende Mbele (Partnership between African governments) by Dr Sean Phillips and we had Ms Fatima Mativah as a discussant.

Ms Mathivha shared her experiences navigating the sector as a young new entrant to the sector.

Some points were raised in the discussion

  • The sector was growing. In recent years the growth had been driven by growing demand for evaluation expertise by government.
  • There was also a wider ecosystem made up of Multilaterals, NGOs, Higher Education Institutions, Networks, Associations, etc.
  • Despite the growth, the sector was still relatively constrained. It was mainly made up of individuals who got contracted by different companies. There were fewer established “Evaluation firms” to absorb emerging evaluators or those interested in pursuing a career in the sector. Most appointments were also through networks since companies tend to appoint when they have contracts.
  • Consultancy evaluation companies were not always able or willing to invest in mentoring young emerging evaluators.
  • Some firms that were new to the sector also struggle to access the sector. Mostly because of requirements from evaluation managers i.e. government and NGOs
  • Observed tension: those who trained as M&E specialists desired some professionalization/preferential treatment in employment however many people entred the sector through different entry points and their training is not always in evaluations/M&E.
  • Evaluation/M&E as a sector was practised within policy areas with the aim to improve quality of policies/programmes and governance. M&E practitioners/evaluators needed a range of skills.
  • Not always clear what skills emerging evaluators needed to invest in developing i.e. research skills, evaluation theory, sector knowledge? And who funded this continuous professional development? And was it of value for evaluators? Did it set them apart and therefore worth the investment?
  • The legitimacy of the sector depended on it been seen as inclusive and its sustainability hinged on having continuous stream of young entrants who had opportunities to grow.

Possible follow ups

  • Explore ways that SAMEA can support emerging evaluators, this should include mentoring, networking and professional development; • Need strategy for growth of emerging evaluators. This could be done in partnership with Government and other partners.
  • Need for support by M&E practitioners in government, particularly those who want a career in evaluations
  • Who and how can we fund mentorships and internships for emerging evaluators to have access to professional experience? Are there opportunities with SITAs or the likes of ZENEX Foundation?
  • SAMEA TIGS and Capacity building workshops are an important avenue to build capacity and also encourage people to build networks. Should consider planning networking events around the capacity building workshops.
  • SAMEA needs to define different categories/levels of evaluators. Concerns/caution against conflation of race and levels of experience in definition of emerging evaluators. This will be done in the competencies work.
  • Can SAMEA explore match making services between established companies and emerging companies?