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Realizing The Diversity Of My 2019 Evaluation-Related Assignments by Sara Vaca

Happy last days of the year!

My name is Sara Vaca, frequent Saturday contributor to this blog, and looking back at 2019 I’ve again realized how amazing my job as independent consultant can be – and how diverse my assignments have been this year!

Lesson Learned 1: Since I became a consultant in 2013, every year has been an adventure and has surprised me positively.

Within the evaluation field, I think you certainly have some potential to influence what you are hired to do – by the things you apply to, by the people you periodically talk to, by your aside projects, and eventually by the things you refuse. But I also acknowledge that often assignments come to me, totally escaping my area of control, they just come – and they don’t stop surprising me.

Lesson Learned 2: If I can start seeing patterns in the last 6 years, I would say a standard year entails conducting 3 to 6 evaluations (each one including a mission to another country), combined with some home-based assignments, usually meta-evaluations.

Lesson Learned 3: However, 2019 has been rather different. These are the assignments I’ve been involved in:

· Only one evaluation

In Ukraine, about a pilot on mobile teams supporting domestic violence survivors, for a UN agency in January – first checkpoints in the snow I had ever crossed.

· Defining a Monitoring Framework

For the youth employment programs of the Asian Regional Office of a big NGO in February.

· Information Manager Officer in an Emergency

As part of the response supporting people affected by the cyclones in Mozambique in April, I served as IMO for the shelter cluster – my first ever emergency operation.

· Being part of an Evaluation Start-up

I had the chance to work for some months with the brilliant Alex Pittman and the team of ImpactMapper (a tool for tracking, analyzing and visualizing social impact) – a technological start-up + evaluation = coolness2.

· Facilitating Theories of Change spree

Since the summer, I’ve been focused facilitating theories of change of the Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Philippines Country Offices of another UN agency (still on-going: Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka lined up for this year) – where I am learning so much about facilitating and visualizing ToCs that I’m writing a couple of short e-books.

· Quality Assurance of Strategic Notes and Country Programs

I usually focus on how a program was implemented, but now I am part of assuring the quality of the 5-year Country Plans of another big UN agency – planning is still related to M&E, but changing the perspective feels refreshing.

· And always some Meta-Evaluations and some Data Visualization assignments (making guidelines and presentations to communicate results visual)…

Conclusion: It feels mind-blowing that being my work so specific (I’m-an-evaluator), it is yet so diverse – which makes it so interesting and fun that I can only be thankful.

Happy 2020 assignments! 🙂

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