Would you recognize an “enabling environment” if you “saw” it? The enabling environment concept is very popular among professionals in evaluation. But what does it mean? How you create and cultivate this kind of environment requires some out-of -the-box kind of thinking.
Last November the CLEAR Centers of Latin America and Anglophone Africa organized a South-South roundtable in Pretoria, South Africa that tried to do something different. We brought together members of government, parliament and technical experts from eight developing countries (Benin, Colombia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and Uganda). We had them role-play, discuss and reflect informally about the role of evidence in development. The idea was to provide a neutral space for people in high-level decision positions, with the ability to push legislation, and technical experts to share experiences and knowledge in a very open forma. And what did we get out of it? A fascinating working-group, specific country-level commitments and a lot of fun.
Lessons Learned: Plan, plan, plan, ahead! The selection of participants and a well-thought agenda are essential.
Hot Tip: We held bimonthly meetings with a steering group of senior specialists from Mexico, South Africa and Ghana and the facilitation team to plan the round-table’s content and goals. In-depth, participatory work for the construction of the agenda and the selection of adequate strategic participants (combining enough experience, decisiveness and expertise) was crucial for success.
Lessons Learned: A traditional lecture format was just not going to cut it! We needed participants to get to know each other and be willing to openly share the frustrations and challenges they face. A flexible format and a facilitation process that enabled collaboration and engagement across institutional roles and national boundaries helped.
Hot Tip: Carefully select well prepared and experienced facilitators. Group dynamics help to create an atmosphere of trust. At first these activities may seem silly or a waste of time. They are not!
Lessons learned: Ok, meeting our colleagues is rewarding, but we came here for results! Aim for written commitments.
Hot Tip: Set aside enough time to establish agreements. The last three sessions of the event were dedicated to drafting country and regional action plans taking into consideration learning and insights from the interactions.
Country action plans included: Designing of a legal/administrative framework to promote compliance and learning through evaluation; effectively supply relevant information; ensure that recommendations outputs are evidence-based, timely, clear, and politically and economically feasible; and create a parliamentarian forum on M&E.
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