Hello everyone. My name is Casey Solomon-Filer and I am an evaluation consultant in the Chicago area with a background in international development. Working as a project assistant outside of the US, I was drawn to evaluation as a method of shifting the power of decision-making from international funders to local communities. Over the past few years, I moved the focus of my work from international projects to more local and national evaluations. I think evaluation jobs should go to people who live in the country, who know the culture, who are a part of the community. Local evaluators can mean better projects and maximizing the project funding going into the local economy.
However, that’s not always how things work out. I am currently consulting on a youth vocational training project in Yemen, a beautiful and amazing country where I lived and worked for almost four years. The team had tried to hire a local evaluator, but there are few in the area and the team could not find an appropriate match. Foreigners have left Yemen, so someone else on the ground was not possible. They brought me on towards the latter half of the project to help the team identify gaps in data for reporting. My role necessitates collaboration with mostly one person, but as we have worked together we have started bringing the entire team into our discussions on evaluation skills and evaluative thinking. This blog post is about why I am trying to focus on helping the local team to build evaluation capacity and evaluative thinking skills when working on international projects.
- Helping local team members to develop evaluation capacity and evaluative thinking skills will help them to move into evaluation roles in the future. In areas where local evaluators do not seem to be an option, focusing on building skills and understanding seems like the most ethical approach I can take.
- Make time to discuss values and ethics. Share the AEA Guiding Principles, the DAC Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance, or other relevant evaluation association guidelines with the team, and discuss how those guidelines apply to the project. I find these discussions to be the most rewarding as we identify and unite around our shared values and hopes for the community.
- Cultural Responsiveness is paramount. I remind myself that I may have more experience in evaluation, but everyone in the country of Yemen knows the culture, language, and sociopolitical complexities of the moment much more than I ever will. I am there to serve them.
- Suggest an evaluation capacity building (ECB) element be added to the initial project proposal. ECB can be framed for funders as an effort to strengthen accountability and transparency in the public sector and civil society.
- Timothy Mitchell’s Rule of Experts helped me to better put into context and question the complex power structures of international development, history, and modern imperialism.
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