Creative Consulting & Development Works is proud to launch our Learning & Networking circle this May. Join us for a lively discussion and chance to network with like-minded evaluation professionals, and some great cheese and wine pairings!
Our guest speaker Donna Podems will deliver a lecture on the new book she edited, Democratic Evaluation & Democracy – Exploring the reality and do a signing.
Collecting data for different projects, in different communities, across different countries is exactly that — different! So as a researcher or programme evaluator you may have an image in your mind as to how data collection should go down. With the best planning you remember all your equipment, and anticipiate gaining access to communities and participants relatively easily, with participants interested in the study and understanding the questions they must answer. But this is not always the case and flexibility and creativity are required.
The Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) team recently completed fieldwork for a project that aims to determine whether film can be used as a health education tool for youth. As part of our fieldwork, the team screened a film focusing on tuberculosis to over 2000 youth in urban, peri-urban and rural areas in South Africa (specifically Gauteng and Western Cape) and Lesotho. This translated into screening the movies, The Lucky Specials and Inside Story, almost 100 times to groups of 20+ youth at a time, at 100+ different venues.
At first the task seemed almost impossible, but with good experience, a lot of ambition and thorough planning, the fieldwork teams headed off to Johannesburg and Maseru respectively. From kick-off, the fieldwork posed challenges, including:
Films were screened in a range of venues (school halls, churches, containers and NGO buildings) – not all were dark enough for participants to see the movie. The research team had to think creatively and cover windows, doors and any glimpse of daylight with black bags, blankets and newspapers (sourced from the venue and/or surrounding community)
The CC&DW team were excited to provide participants with popcorn and juice, to create a real movie setting – but in Lesotho the team couldn’t find popcorn and in South Africa the team had too much popcorn. The packets of popcorn ordered were massive and the fieldworkers had to make numerous trips from point A to B to get popcorn to data collection sites. Storage space was needed for the popcorn!
The team knew roads in Lesotho were going to be bad…but didn’t realise just how bad they were. At some sites researchers had to park and carry equipment (i.e. 50+ packets of chips, 50+ juices, 100+ paper surveys, 50+ pens, a projector, a laptop, and 2 speakers) for quite a distance covering jeep track where not even Jeeps would have been able to drive – but the team did it and in most cases called in the help of the participants, who assisted in great spirit.
The research team learnt a lot from this project and the data collection phase. However, one of the most noteworthy learnings was that the resilience the team were researching and looking for in the project participants, is exactly the resilience the team needed in the field, and a skill set crucial to the development sector.
“This project was a huge learning curve. You have to stay calm, collected and pleasant under pressure. But it’s amazing what you can get done with the help of the community” – Fatima Mathivha, CC&DW fieldwork coordinator.
From Uganda in 2017 to Cote d’Voire in 2019
Exciting destinations and thought-provoking discussions: attending an African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) conference is likely to be on the wish list of most evaluators. Economic realities, scheduling conflicts and the family-career juggling game may stand in the way of participating in the event, but the enthusiastic feedback of those who were at the 2017 Uganda conference gave those who attended the “Reflections from AfrEA Conference” session at the Human Sciences Research Council a taste of important emerging themes and discussions, as well as a sense of the positioning of the South African evaluation community in relation to the larger African evaluation group.
A scattering of evaluators and researchers in Pretoria, Cape town and Durban heard about the strong representation from South Africa at the conference and the call to further fortify the future engagement in this forum.
Several themes emerging from the AfrEA Conference will make for riveting discussions in the South African evaluation community, and will undoubtedly filter through to the October 2017 South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) Conference.
“Made in Africa” is the rhythm that will reverberate through the evaluation discourse and will certainly shape innovative evaluative thinking and context-sensitive evaluation here. This has the potential to propel Africa ahead in the ever-evolving world of evaluation.
Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) encourages South African evaluators to become active participants in shaping the development of evaluation and the evaluation community locally.
Dr. Donna Podems was one of the presenters at the HSRC event “Reflections from the AfrEA Conference”. She is the editor of “Democratic Evaluation and Democracy”, hot off the press.
Donna will be hosting a discussion on the book at our Networking Circle in Cape Town at 31 May.
Meet your Creative Data Visualisation facilitator, Fia van Rensburg who is based at our new Pretoria office.
Fia has more than 18 years’ experience in the development sector, specializing in monitoring and evaluation. She has worked in provincial and national government as well as international organizations. In addition to core skills in M&E and training facilitation, she is passionate about capacity building and is interested in integrating issues of gender and appreciative inquiry into her work.
There is a wide misconception that monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a field for geeks and nerds, and relevant only to those who understand it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any industry that conducts interviews, gathers data or research requires M&E skills. We interviewed Fia to find out more about her, the training and what participants can expect.
CC&DW: The value in M&E, when correctly applied, has the power to improve systems and programmes but not many see the creative side of it. Why did you get into the M&E field? What excites you about research?
Fia: Well, I’m just a child at heart! And I think it’s very important to be able to communicate effectively with people that are not involved in research and evaluation. Creative Data Visualization is a way of developing a language that can reach a much broader audience.
The fact is, things change in the world all the time and we are communicating differently in business nowadays.We Whatsapp and skype, so why would we want to continue to do our visualization of data the same way we did ten years ago and not keeping up with development in the world?
I am interested in making things fun and accessible. Research is alive! It’s not a dry and boring subject, and I think one needs to bring that out. People often complain about the lack of data in Africa and we need to push that agenda more, how else will we plan and ensure that we develop is based on evidence. Even casual communications like emojis etc, have already started enabling us to use visuals to communicate differently.
CC&DW: How will the workshop be conducted? And what can participants look forward to?
Fia: We’ll be looking at some traditional ways of reporting and presenting data and taking that and facilitating a new way of thinking about presenting data. Using what participants are familiar with and how that can be used optimally to present data and entice people to apply the information differently. We’re building technical skills. Think about how sometimes you have an idea and you know how it looks but you don’t have the skills to develop it.
CC&DW: The general assumption is that M&E is for development practitioners, government officials, and non-profits, but who else are these skills and knowledge necessary for? What would other industries benefit from these workshops?
Fia: Everybody that has to do a presentation or write a report or communicate data. The moment you do a presentation you work with visuals and need visual mediums and not everybody has access to things like Prezi. With just what we have on MS Office you can improve your data visualization. Any report has data in it. Corporate, social sector, NGOs, building, and training, investment, trainers, and facilitators can benefit from this.
CC&DW: What impact can the right or wrong visualization or presentation have on your data?
Fia: The advantage of correct and exciting data visualization is that you generate an interest in your data and what your evaluation report is used for. Let’s face it, the quality of your evaluation depends on the actual use of the findings, which is a contentious statement but there is some truth in it. However good your report, if it doesn’t get used what’s the value? Data visualization skills will help you take that knowledge that sits on the shelf and put it to use.
One of the consequences of incorrect, poor or irrelevant data visualization is cultural insensitivity e.g. using thumbs up for something that went well but in some cultures that might be rude. You have to be aware of correct visualization tools. It’s a new language that people have to learn.
I think it’s very important to be able to communicate effectively with people across all disciplines, including those who may not have a deep understanding of research and evaluation.
No matter which industry or sector you’re involved in, if you need to present data, it is important to know which tools are available to you (both traditional and modern ones) and how to use them. As Fia mentioned, there is no value in having groundbreaking findings if you can’t communicate your information in a clear, concise and exciting manner.
Improve your visualization skills at our next Creative Data Visualisation workshop. At the end of the workshop, you will be able to:
Register here before the 20 April 2017 to get your early bird special.
We are serious about having fun when presenting our training workshops. While research and evaluation may come across as mundane to some, we have included appropriate experiential learning opportunities into our training workshops ensuring active as opposed to theory-based-only learning.
Through our unique, interactive activities built into our training, we would like to share our passion for research and evaluation. In February, we held our Qualitative Data Collection training workshops in Cape Town and Pretoria. Join us for the upcoming Creative Data Collection training workshops in Cape Town (8 & 9 March) and Pretoria (14 & 15 March).
Evaluation is serious business – in fact, one of the factors distinguishing evaluation from research is that evaluation inevitably involves a judgement. Knowing that an evaluation will influence decisions about programme design; whether or not a programme will continue to receive funding; and the direction of policy or legislation, can weigh heavily on the shoulders of an evaluator. Irrespective of our theoretical orientation, we cannot escape the reality that evaluators have to put their head on the proverbial chopping block when they conclude findings and make recommendations. High levels of responsibility require high levels of professionalism, rigour, accuracy and accountability. Ongoing development of evaluation capacity is an important component of the process of professionalization of evaluation.
Sound theoretical knowledge is the non-negotiable basis for capacity building, and there are a number of excellent academic offerings on programme evaluation. At CC&DW we have recongnised that complementary to academic programmes, there is space for experiential learning through skills development training workshops that provide participants with the opportunity to learn through application and experimentation. Knowledge does not equal capacity. Deep capacity requires application of knowledge; the quality of application depends on skill; and the quality of skill depends on practice.
The classic professions include both theory and praxis. A medical doctor has to do a two-year internship after completing six years of formal study, even though extensive practical work is already integrated in the curriculum from the 3rd or the 4th year, depending on the faculty. During their internship, junior doctors are registered at the Health Sciences Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for “supervised practice”, and they are only allowed to practice independently after successfully completing the internship. Similarly, Clinical Psychologists do internships, Lawyers and Accountants do articles.
Taking a page from this book, we make sure that we provide the opportunity to our workshop participants to get exposure to skills training and a taste of what it means to apply their knowledge and skills. CC&DW has developed a series of complementary training workshops which enable practical peer learning and are embedded in a sound theoretical foundation. All our courses have space for learning through fun activities, and elements of surprise have been built into each workshop. This makes evaluation theory and skills real and relevant, with specific activities through which participants can try out what they have learnt, and then reflect on their experiences. This is action learning in practice!