Start main page content

A reflection of our experience of the CLEAR-AA/WFP Emerging Evaluator Programme

- Sonny Motlanthe, Emerging Evaluator, CLEAR-AA & WFP ; and Samukelisiwe Mkhize, Emerging Evaluator, CLEAR-AA & WFP

In September 2022, we joined the Emerging Evaluator Work Immersion Programme launched by WFP in partnership with CLEAR-AA. The objective of the programme aims to support EEs to become competent, experienced & well-networked professionals who contribute to evaluation capacity at national, regional & international levels, promote the inclusion of EEs in evaluations as well as to enable and facilitate active and meaningful participation of, and influence by EEs in policy and evaluation discourse. The programme provides us with the 'best of both worlds'; engaging in evaluation management at WFP, and supporting Country Offices to manage decentralized evaluations throughout the Southern African region. Simultaneously, we are contributing in different teams within the WFP’s Regional Bureau Evaluation team three days a week, while the other two are spent conducting research and evaluation, and developing knowledge products in the Research and Learning (R&L) business line at CLEAR-AA.

It has been a journey of both highs and lows, pushing the boundaries of our professional and personal development. The initial challenge was ‘learning by doing’ with new colleagues between two organizations, with different organizational cultures but equally fast-paced working environments. It made it more difficult to build rapport, share meaning and gain timely feedback, as we are continuously engaged in a multitude of tasks. The process of learning, particularly at CLEAR-AA has been challenging as the iterative nature of research and writing requires more time than the allotted 2 days a week. The level of engagement and timely delivery of work has been compromised at times.  These are some of the stumbling blocks we hope to overcome because as EEs developing a set of technical M&E competencies and relationships are equally important.

Our personal growth has been exponential under all this pressure. We have developed coping strategies and time management to avoid long nights, late meetings and working over weekends. We have also found that other strategies such as workload communication, mutual support, and requesting feedback to enhance iterative learning, are very effective tools. Equally, this has opened up an opportunity to engage and support each other as EEs; leveraging on one another's existing competencies and supporting each other in areas we are still developing. In this way, we have mastered the art of 'virtual team work', ensuring that we create space for constructive criticisms, working sessions and open conversations amongst us and colleagues in the organizations whilst completing team tasks. Furthermore, coming into the evaluation space from diverse previous work backgrounds such as; parliament, non-governmental organizations, research, government and consultancies, has also enabled us to learn from one another’s’ skills. The programme has also opened up a platform for us to build sustainable networks with experienced evaluators, and amongst ourselves as emerging evaluators. We are envisaging that the skills and abilities developed through working across these organizations will contribute to molding us into independent evaluators, with the ability to work in highly structured environments.

As the first cohort of the EE programme, we believe that the developmental approach taken requires future YEEs to have previous work experience to understand the expectations, work ethics and build resilience. Future YEEs have to be flexible and adapt to work pressure and be open to task reprioritization, due to the fast-paced nature and stakeholder dynamics at multiple levels, particularly in evaluation management. We make the following recommendations to future YEE, understand that:

  • Collaboration is key: Develop a great sense of teamwork and regular communication with colleagues within the organizations.
  • Take control: Ask for feedback and examples. Work on the amendments for your own portfolio of evidence. Even if the team has moved on. Be accountable to yourself.
  • Take initiative: Empower yourself and/or other EEs, work on small but impactful project activities/articles/blogs to build confidence. Being independent and taking initiative is key to a successful career in evaluation. Success largely depends on one's attitude and initiative.
  • One step at a time: Don’t overwhelm yourself; don’t take on more than you can do.
  • Time management: This is critical to ease anxiety and manage tasks simultaneously.
  • Enjoy the best of both worlds building sustainable networks.