Established in November 2005, the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) strives to cultivate a vibrant community that will support, guide and strengthen the development of Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) as an important discipline, profession and instrument for empowerment and accountability in South Africa – used in a manner that adds significant value to effective, sustainable development in South Africa.
The Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) Research & Evaluation team attended the SAMEA breakfast on 18 September 2015 at the Belmont Square Gardens in Rondebosch. The breakfast was an important opportunity for our team of evaluators to engage with others active in the evaluation field.
The screening of a short documentary highlighted the profound inequality in Cape Town and juxtaposed the two sides of the Mother City – the natural beauty and wealth on the one side and the alarming poverty on the other. This set the tone for the breakfast in relation to evaluation in South Africa and the key question: how do we create the world we want?
“The highlight of the event was the inclusion of three high-profile keynote speakers,” says CC&DW Researcher Lauren Baerecke. “The speakers encompassed the spectrum of those in the evaluation field – academic, government and civil society.”
Trevor Manuel, representing the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice at UCT, opened the keynote speakers’ address. He highlighted the wealth of data available through government statistics, yet indicated the simultaneous underutilisation of this data. Speaking specifically about the education sector, Mr Manuel emphasised the ‘real Matric pass rate’ – the statistics of the percentage of pupils who started Grade 1 and those who ended up finishing Matric 12 years later. “This is particularly relevant to CC&DW, considering the current long-term evaluation we are conducting of the Zenex Learner Programme,” says Lauren. “The programme aims to address this exact issue, by helping Grade 10 to 12 Black learners from disadvantaged backgrounds leave school with a matric exemption, specifically a matric exemption that qualifies them to study maths and science related degrees at university.”
Ian Goldman, Head of Evaluation and Research in the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the Presidency, underlined issues around the utilisation of and challenges facing evaluation in South African government. According to Mr Goldman, in order for evaluations to be effective and utilised in government, there needs to be:
(1) Ownership of the evaluation;
(2) A culture of learning and acknowledgement that it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them;
(3) Belief in the evaluators and evaluation results, through having credible and independent evaluators; and
(4) Follow-up through making results public and developing improvement plans.
Mr Goldman acknowledged that government faces a number of challenges when it comes to monitoring and evaluation, including a lack of monitoring data, capacity and evaluation skill within departments. Government expects to commission more than 200 evaluations per year in the next five years. This highlights government’s focus on the importance of evaluating programmes in order to improve performance and service delivery and enhance the use of evidence in policy-making and implementation. If the growth of evaluations commissioned by government meets this expectation, it will mark a significant increase in the evaluation activities of government from the development of the first National Evaluation Plan in 2012/2013, which contained only eight evaluations.
In contrast to the first two speakers, the third speaker, Phumza Mlungwana from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), represented civil society organisations and spoke of citizen-based monitoring and the SJC’s Clean and Safe Sanitation Campaign. The SJC highlighted how they used community participation to verify information obtained from government in relation to the provision of sanitation services in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Citizen-based monitoring is a valuable means of incorporating the voices of beneficiaries in the monitoring and evaluation not only of government performance but in other spheres too and is in line with the National Development Plan’s emphasis on fostering active citizenship.
It was an important opportunity for those in the field to interact and network in preparation for the SAMEA conference which takes place from 14 – 16 October 2015 in Gauteng. A discussion session at the breakfast, where attendees engaged on a number of pertinent evaluation questions helped to further encourage debate and interaction around important monitoring and evaluation issues. In addition, the speakers stimulated thought-provoking questions from attendees, specifically regarding communication between government, evaluation practitioners and civil society.
“With many years of experience working with government on evaluating various development programmes and initiatives it is encouraging to have these conversations and see this growing commitment to evaluation. No-one can doubt or negate the value and benefit of monitoring and evaluation. Each year we see how evaluations claim greater space in the development sector as a necessary and meaningful component of the work we do. The information and data gained through sound and credible evaluations contributes to decision making by key stakeholders and policy makers. Therefore it helps to improve lives, improve service delivery, advocate for change, implement policy and work towards redressing poverty and inequality in South Africa” says Lindy Briginshaw, Director of CC&DW.
CC&DW also exhibited at the event and our Research & Evaluation team appreciated engaging with stakeholders on key evaluation issues and opportunities. We look forward to continuing these important discussions at the SAMEA conference, where the CC&DW Research & Evaluation team will be presenting four papers reflecting on research projects and learnings in line with the conference theme ‘Using Evaluations to Improve People’s Lives’. Three of CC&DW’s researchers will speak to evaluation in youth development programmes. Lauren Baerecke presents on the value of conducting a needs assessment for programme refinement and advocacy, reviewing a recent youth health needs assessment CC&DW conducted for Salesian Life Choices. Shariefah Mohamed presents the findings of a formative evaluation of a life skills programme for post-matric learners and CC&DW’s senior researcher, Elena Mancebo, presents a paper entitled ‘When the gold standard is too hard to get’ during which she will discuss the evaluation of the Zenex Learner Programme. R&E Manager, Susannah Clarke, has prepared an interesting paper on a specific theoretical approach to evaluation, the realist paradigm, which will be of particular interest to emerging evaluators.
In our next newsletter we will share more on the SAMEA Conference, its highlights and key contributions and our presentations, and how we can better use evaluation to create the world we want.
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