With the title “Using Evaluation to Improve People’s Lives”, the 5th Biennial SAMEA Conference invited participants to go back to the beginning and consider the fundamental questions of “why do we do what we do?” and “what are we trying to achieve?”
“This year’s SAMEA Conference served as a debriefing exercise of our practice as evaluators,” said Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) Senior Researcher Elena Mancebo Masa. “Just as we often reflect as a team after the completion of a project in order to capture the learnings that emerge from it, (both positive and negative) the SAMEA Conference sparked essential questions about our practice as evaluators.”
In a thought-provoking presentation, Kate McKegg, CEO of Kinnect and representative of the Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association (ANZEA), questioned the notion of evaluation as a profession, by unpacking the different elements that constitute a profession.
The one element that caught our attention is the definition of profession, which is defined as “a calling requiring specialised knowledge”. If our practice of evaluation is to be considered the result of a calling, then we as evaluators should be first and foremost guided by our own principles and goals, independent (but hopefully complementary) to those of our clients.
“This is where the conflict often stems from: when the business of evaluation gets in the way of the practice of evaluation,” says Elena. “This occurs when our practice is guided by unrealistic demands made by clients under pressure, or inadequate approaches and methodologies that are demanded by donor compliance requirements.”
In another presentation, Kevin Willy, Head of the Strategic Information and Monitoring & Evaluation division, reflected on the gaps in the current practice of evaluation in South Africa. Mr Willy’s presentation raised the following question: “how can we keep on learning and improving our own practice?” He offered some clues and primarily challenged the audience to move the practice forward by:
“Back from the retreat of the 2015 SAMEA Conference, we are left with the resolution to periodically reflect on those fundamental questions which will guide our evaluation practice,” says Elena. “We will consider what principles drive our work and how can our evaluation endeavours improve people’s lives.”
For more than 12 years, CC&DW has conducted evaluations, needs assessments and research projects for organisations throughout Africa. Visit our website to view our extensive portfolio of past work we have undertaken and to find out more.
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