SAMEA, in partnership with the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), the ZENEX Foundation, Centre for Research on Evaluation Science and Technology (CREST) and Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) recently hosted a series of seminars with Prof Laurie Stevahn from the American Evaluation Association (AEA). On the 13th of June CC&DW, together with SAMEA, co-hosted the Cape Town-based event at Imhoff Sports grounds in Newlands, which made for a beautiful backdrop to Prof Stevahn sharing her insights on competencies and professionalization within the discipline of evaluation. Prof Stevahn’s seminar could not have been better timed as these are currently hot topics in terms of debate and research in the evaluation discipline.
The session focused on the role that foundational standards, principles, and competencies play in the process of professionalizing the evaluation discipline. Through a highly interactive session, Prof Stevahn shared her wealth of knowledge in the development competencies for programme evaluators through her experience in developing the domain of competencies currently used as a core guiding document by the American Evaluation Association (AEA). This list of competencies has also been adopted for use in other countries including Canada, Germany, and Australia.
In her presentation, Prof Stevahn also touched on the standards used to define a professional discipline and drew attention to the issues of accreditation as well as the exclusion of unqualified practitioners. This was a well-debated topic with participants engaging in the ethical quandaries surrounding the exclusion of professionals from the programme evaluation discipline, especially within the context of South Africa and it’s history of marginalisation. Prof Stevhan responded to this with a considered recommendation in light of the country’s history by suggesting that the discipline approaches this issue in a creative way. She suggested framing evaluator standards and competencies in an inclusive way, which may then provide individuals with as many opportunities as possible to qualify as evaluation professionals.
The session also touched on cultural competence, another area in which Prof Stevhan believes evaluators should be developed as part of the professionalization process. Considering many evaluators’ work focusses on issues of social justice, she discussed the importance of being conscious of one’s cultural biases in relation to this. Again, this is a particularly relevant issue in South Africa as an awareness of and sensitivity toward appropriate practice that respects all people is imperative to achieving improvements and advancements in our society. Fostering a more reflective discipline not only ensures outwardly just work, it also encourages self-reflexive learning and development for evaluators themselves.
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