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Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) Week: Collaboration: The Future of Strengthening National Monitoring and Evaluation Systems by Candice Morkel

This week’s posts highlight reflections from the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI), a global network of organizations and experts working together to support the strengthening of monitoring, evaluation, and the use of evidence in developing countries. GEI uses an integrated systems-based approach and works closely with governments, evaluation professionals, and other stakeholders on efforts that are country-owned and aligned with local needs and perspectives.

Hi, I am Candice Morkel, and I am the Director of the Center for Learning on Evaluation and Results – Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA), a GEI implementing partner.

According to a 2019 Forbes article, “collaboration is the currency of the future.” This strongly resonates with GEI’s mission, and it appears that we are in good company. From multidisciplinary MBA programs offered at ivy-league institutions to crowdsourcing by one of the “big four,” it is widely acknowledged, even beyond the development community, that compartmentalized approaches are no longer viable for solving our current global problems.

The complexity and urgency of the challenges in strengthening evidence-informed decision-making – the focus of our work – requires even more coordinated action than ever before. An oft-quoted report from 2019 found that only about 35% of countries who have taken on national commitments related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have the processes or frameworks in place to monitor and report on their progress. GEI works with countries to help them develop and strengthen the systems that support monitoring, evaluation and evidence use.

Below are some lessons learned from our work in countries supporting the strengthening of national monitoring and evaluation systems.

Lessons Learned

  • Collaboration is not just cooperation. Whereas cooperation has organizations sticking to their mandates and agreeing not to “step onto each other’s toes,” collaboration speaks to redefining, reimagining and recreating ways of working together that combines the resources, skills and unique characteristics of each organization to jointly resolve identified problems.
  • Country ownership is a must. This means that GEI supports countries on their journey to better M&E, with a focus on their needs, their goals and their resources – always considering the country context.  We don’t develop solutions for countries, but with them, directly involving government officials in the entire process – from diagnostics to design, data collection, analysis, and capacity building plan development.  This kind of in-country ownership means that Ministries, Departments and Agencies are more aware of the value of M&E and have begun to identify evaluations of national priorities that are linked to their medium-term plans, signifying a shift from policy to practice. In our shared vision for localised, country-owned solutions, CLEAR-AA and the UNICEF East and Southern African Regional Office (ESARO), for example, have co-produced National M&E Policies aimed at institutionalizing evaluation practice in countries such as Lesotho and Namibia.
  • Partnership agreements help articulate a shared collaborative vision.  One way in which CLEAR AA is exploring a different, more intensive type of collaboration is through a Programme Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with UNICEF ESARO and UNICEF Country Offices (CO). The cornerstone of the PCA is a shared vision and responsibility (including resourcing) towards strengthening the monitoring and evaluation systems of countries. However, innovative partnership agreements (with financial implications) are not without their challenges: they require extensive relationship-building and trust, may demand compromises by both parties, and need strongly motivated champions to push through stoic internal administrative systems. Everybody loves to talk about collaboration, but resorting to individual mandates is often simpler, particularly if the financing mechanisms only support narrow kinds of cooperation.

Rad Resources

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from GEI members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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