I am Michael Ojo, a YEE interested in helping organisations demonstrate the impact of their work. I have had the opportunity of working with charities, a public sector organisation in the UK, as well as within donor funded projects in the global south. This blog is a reflection from my experience as a YEE on two salient challenges for evaluating transformations.
I recently evaluated two climate change policies and I encountered political pressure at a level beyond what my training and experience provided as a YEE. These political agendas mostly manifest themselves in the form of cherry picking findings and a strong reluctance to engage with evidence because it did not align with preconceived assumptions. For instance, in one evaluation, the policy team wanted the conclusion to be revised because the findings were unexpected, but I had to stand firm – thanks to the support from my manager. I resolved it by reminding them that they can express a difference of opinion in the Management Response to the evaluation. Introspectively, I realised that evaluating transformations is a highly political venture and will require capacities that are beyond the immediate remit of YEEs. In order to collectively address this gap, there are three questions that need to be answered: How can YEEs obtain the skill sets and training to help navigate the murky political waters of evaluating transformations? Can veteran evaluators be co-captains on that journey? Are there other crew members that can be of help in upskilling YEEs?
The second challenge has to do with having limited skills in evaluating transformations. There has been an increasing appetite for complexity-informed, culturally responsive evaluation and adaptive approaches as one of the pathways to reimagining and transforming societies but translating that to practice is a different kettle of fish. My experience working on climate change policies can attest to the scarcity of practitioners who can successfully use complexity-informed approaches to produce actionable evidence that pass the test of rigour and appeal to policy makers. It would be great to broaden the engagement between evaluators with such skill sets and YEEs beyond webinars and workshops so there can be the transfer of intergenerational capacities in ways that help YEEs contribute their best in avoiding the end game.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of challenges faced by YEEs in evaluating transformations, I invite you all to play a unique role in being part of the solution to the above challenges.
- Keep learning, unlearning and relearning
- Build alliances with key stakeholders and keep them engaged all through the evaluation process.
- Use Linkedin and other platforms to get a mentor to help you learn the ropes.
- Politics and Evaluation, (1988), by Michael Quinn Patton, published in American Journal of Evaluation
- Where politics and evaluation research meet (1993), by Carol H. Weiss, published in the Evaluation Practice journal
- Powerlessness of evaluation (2021), by Zenda Ofir
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