In 1992 I travelled with my old friend Paul Staal (with whom I worked first in Zimbabwe in 1980) to Angola, just after the Bicesse accords ("The small period of peace", as they used to call it in Angola). We made an exhibit on the then actual state of affairs that was shown in many diferent countries (USA, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Portugal, Angola, etc.). The Portuguese version is larger and more updated.
Evaluations have always been very important in international cooperation. Some of us evaluate, others are being evaluated or manage evaluation contracts and processes. Some of us find evaluation processes rewarding, many find it a frustrating experience. Too often we hear that too little is done with the outcomes of evaluations, that no real learning comes from them. We also see that important stakeholders are not heard, or cannot influence the outcomes. Then there is the question of the quality of evaluation and evaluators: too often evaluators are hired based on their field experience, not knowing much about evaluation and research methodology. What is it that makes evaluating or being evaluated so frustrating? How can we do things differently? In our experience the way in which evaluations are planned and conducted often limits their potential for learning and change. Also genuine participation is restricted for a wide variety of reasons - always very valid of course. Downward accountability is actually seldom built in evaluation processes. What can be done to remedy this? These are some things we looked at: 1. Some methods and tools limit the space for learning and participation, others actually enhance learning or (downward) accountability. Easily measurable indicators are often overrated compared to evidence that actually informs learning and changes behaviors. 2. Our behaviors (as evaluators but also as "objects" of evaluations) influence the space for participation in evaluation processes and -tools. Sometimes this behavior is intentional; sometimes it is reactive or even unconscious. Also, the interaction between individual behavior and organizational culture and - processes is relevant. 3. Evaluation processes tend to be to verbal: images can provoke much more active learning. 4. Participation can be promoted by using for example internet when people cannot easily meet face to face are not easily coming together.
Triggered by our frustrations and inspired by the ideas we developed addressing them, we decided to create opportunities to share experiences. To do so we offer a compact series of tailor made, modular - open subscription - learning events the first to take place in June 2010. We also provide practical tailor-made support to (re)design and implement evaluation and monitoring processes.
In the learning events participants, a diverse group of development practitioners, explore ideas and develops new skills to help them to manage, organize, conduct and experience evaluation differently. We address standards and processes of evaluations and look at methodologies, tools and behaviors. We also look into the use of images, video and internet as new media that may generate different behaviors and ideas, and that can support participatory processes. The learning events will involve evaluators, as well as people who commission evaluations and people who are "being" evaluated. We aim to involve people from the South as well as from the North. Before and after the event, participants network using the internet platform we have set-up.
Concrete experiences from participants as well as our own, together with some theory are the main ingredients in the learning events. We are a professional capacity development evaluator, an M&E specialist experimenting with video, and a manager/advisor working on issues of diversity and gender equality. Between the three of us we have at least 50 years of evaluation experience, doing evaluations, being evaluated and hiring and managing evaluators.
In our philosophy the best cure for frustration is fun and the best learning is learning from each other! We are not subsidized or sponsored. Participation in the events will be low-cost but not free.
Marlèn Arkesteijn: www.capturingdevelopment.com Rosien Herweijer: www.herweijer.wordpress.com Bob van der Winden: www.bwsupport.nl
Placed September 3, 2008 in Media and Public sphere:
Download full version of article on Angola published in:
Justino Pinto de Andrade and Nuno Vidal: Civil Society, Democracy and Human Rights in Angola (Luanda & Lisbon: Angolan Catholic University and University of Coimbra, 2008)
Placed September 4, 2008 in Stories 2008:
Angola: Elections 2008 (click for full story)
See also article in Trouw, Dutch newspaper
I spent August 2008 in Luanda, Angola's capital. First participating in a seminar where we presented for civil society and politics the book Sociedade civil e política em Angola (edited by Justino Pinto de Andrade and Nuno Vidal, and with an article on Civil Society of David Sogge, René Roemersma and me). Later delivering two workshops on communication and presentation for small Civil Society Organizations and people from Development Workshop, an Angolan NGO of Canadian descent, that commissioned the workshops.
Life is slightly improving...
Downtown Luanda is booming: everywhere building of skyscrapers is going on, roads are repaired and traffic is a nightmare: I've seen more new 4x4's than anywhere else.
The good news is indeed that even in the poorest parts of the city (the musseques) life is little by little becoming a bit better for people. The family I described in A family of the musseque (1996) and which I visited again, so many years later, has now after 20 year finally access to electricity in their neighborhood. Also 3 instead of 1 members now have jobs in the formal economy. See also ‘publications' on this website.
A feudal, rather than a failing state...
You don't know what you're voting for...
MPLA is going to win...
Still, I'm an optimist...
Support a culture of debate and responsiveness!
Finally the Civil society (in the broad sense, see article in ‘Media and public sphere on this website) is here to stay: Catholic universities, headmen's (Souba's) organizations, all kind of churches, small village papers, they are all contributing to the public space.
We, the writers of this article, plead for more investments in those groups and organizations that are willing to promote and push responsiveness of the rulers to citizens' needs, for instance by expanding and making transparent the public arena including the media).
MPLA will win this elections, I bet on that, but democracy will not follow from these elections: it will have to be conquered after, in a public space where the issues at stake are debated and transparency and responsiveness can be demanded from ruling parties, whoever they are.
Luanda, Amsterdam, September 1, 2008
Placed July 2, 2008 in 'publications':
1986: Comalapa - a village in Nicaragua
With Hans van Heijningen: describing every day life in a war torn province.
This book was undertaken because both Hans and me wanted to show how life goes on in a war zone - or how also normal life comes to an abrupt end.....
As Bismarc Nunez Jiron (14 years old then) says in his interview: "The last weeks I go around in my uniform and I'm armed, because they can come here. May be that we can stop the contras. because it's dangerous now I carry arms, to defend my village. Without talking to anyone I went with my brother in law, Bertoldo, to the village command post, when we came back from the cooperative. In the command post they gave me my fire arm...
Because of the revolution our life has become better. Before then we were always afraid at home. In earlier days there were often party's of the liberals of Somoza. My father and brothers never went there... Later my brothers Aldo and Ronaldo joined the Sandinistas...
My place is at the river with Adonis and my cousin Hugo... What will happen if the contra's manage to enter the village? I don't know... Perhaps they will kill the revolutionary people..."
And indeed during the months we worked on this book 68 people in and around Comalapa were killed, including several we interviewed. At that time we dedicated our book to them, and although this is now over 20 years ago, they are still engraved in our minds.
Bismarc himself now lives in Miami: he managed to get smuggled into the United States and is a succesful builder there, keeping alive economically a large part of his family that stayed in Nicaragua...