Independent Consulting TIG Week: My Journey Towards Becoming an Evaluation Consultant/Entrepreneur: A Personal Story by Nicolas Uwitonze

Author Nicolas Uwitonze

Hello, my name is Nicolas Uwitonze, and I am a second year PhD student at the Department of Agriculture Leadership and Community Education at Virginia Tech, USA. In this blog, I would like to narrate a brief story of my journey towards becoming an independent consultant and to the field of evaluation. I will reflect on my present research focusing on evaluation, and my experience of working in Africa as a local consultant supporting research, evaluation, and organizations engaged in local & international development. 

A little bit about myself and the location of my consulting experience
A map of East Africa, with Rwanda highlighted in yellow

To begin with, I was born and grew up in Rwanda, but studied in Egypt for my bachelor’s in agricultural extension education and in Switzerland for my master’s in integrated crop management (ICM). I have over seven years of professional experience in agriculture extension and have been focusing on training and workshop facilitation/ capacity development, consultancy/research in agriculture, climate change and extension related work. Since 2014, I worked for/ with projects and organizations engaged in agriculture development such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); NGOs/projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and with higher learning institutions, private companies, government and non-governmental organizations whether in Rwanda or other countries around the world.

Cool tricks about how I got into consulting and evaluation
  • Throughout my career, I did not hold any position as “evaluator”. However, I found myself working closely with the monitoring and evaluation unit in the design of work plans, monitoring of field activities implementation, in reporting and in evaluation of the impact of some development interventions we were involved in by the time.
  • Also, along my career, I did some part-time work as an independent consultancy and in 2019 I decided to start my management of consultancy firm in Rwanda (NEXT & Research Group ltd) with a goal to provide advisory services, evaluation services and consulting services in Rwanda and beyond.
  • Furthermore, when I started the PhD program at Virginia Tech in January 2022, what it means to become an evaluator and the goal to become an evaluation consultant unfolded after I met my mentor Dr Thomas Archibald.

Hot Tips

For the young and aspiring evaluators and/or evaluation consultant /entrepreneur like me, It is advisable to start building technical consulting experience, as well as gaining knowledge and skills in evaluation theory, principles, and practices.

  • In my case, I decided to take on subcontracts, and to gain needed experience through working with and for others in international development, NGO, and other companies doing consultancy work.  For instance, in 2021 I joined (a research and mentorship firm in Rwanda named ‘High Lands Centre of Leadership for Development (HLC-L4D)’. Here, I learnt by doing, how to write proposals, designing baseline surveys, field data collection, data quality management and report writing which are important skills for evaluators.
  • Also, my dissertation journey contributes towards becoming an independent evaluation consultant as my study seeks to investigate how evaluators in Africa (people and firms) and commissioners of evaluation are engaged in the business of exchanging evaluation services and products for the development of the continent. 

Rad Resources

The American Evaluation Association is hosting IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our IC TIG 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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