Editorial comment: We are very pleased to publish Pablo Rodriguez-Bilella’s post in the new series of ECD-related blogs by ECDG Advisory Group members. It is also available in Spanish in Pablo’s blog Al Borde del Caos
In the context of Evaluation networks and associations, as well as with evaluation professionals, a clear consensus has been established on the relevance and need of strengthening the development of evaluation capacity. At the same time, it is recognized that we are far from arriving at a similar consensus on how to do it.
A couple of years ago, the Latinamerican Network of Evaluation, Monitoring and Systematization did an exploratory study for characterizing the state of evaluation services in 16 countries in the region. Two major issues related to the demand for evaluation in the public sector were: (a) the ability to conduct impact assessments, and (b) training in monitoring and evaluation.
The overall outlook for the region indicated that the demand for monitoring and evaluation had grown much faster than the ability to carry them out competently, while the occurrence of training was more common in the domain of universities and private consultants.
That study was developed in parallel with a very interesting experience that, both for its novelty and its scale, was not reflected in it. I refer here to the self-generated training experiences of the Voluntary Associations of Professional Evaluation (VOPEs for its acronym in English, as they are called by the EvalPartners Initiative). In this case, I am referring specifically to the Working Group on Evaluation and Systematization, generated in the platform of the ReLAC. This group began in early 2010 from the joint work of members of ReLAC, the Latin American Program on Support of Systematization of the experiences (PLAS-CEAAL) and PREVAL. The group quickly grew in number of participants as well as in intensity and quality of their discussions.
A decision that proved very successful was to conduct the discussions having in mind the development in July 2010 of the 3rd Conference of ReLAC in San Jose, Costa Rica. Thus, from their collective work in the working group, the participants convened an opening panel at the conference, and various individual papers were also presented. The discussions and interchanges that until then had been virtual and synchronous within the working group, led to discussions and learning sessions in the space of the conference, which turned into a stage for the deepening of the methodology of the systematization of experiences, this particular approach to evaluation (with strong Latin American roots) oriented to generate and share lessons about intervention practices.
In the study about the supply and demand of evaluation in Latin America, when answering questions about what products or methods would be most relevant for strengthening evaluation capacity, the place of virtual media always ranked last in the preferences. This marked a contrast to the experience of the working group on systematization, possibly because it ended up being mainly a b-learning experience, combining presencial (on-site) and virtual instances, rather than simply an e-learning (virtual only) one.
Esteban Tapella (a friend and colleague at the PETAS, and a recent PhD!), motivated by his personal commitment to the topic of systematization as well as the interest it generated in the context of the working group and other international conferences, began a year ago to teach an advance course of Systematization of Experiences in the Faculty of Social Sciences Universidad Nacional de San Juan (San Juan, Argentina). Esteban has generously invited me to join him this year in the course, which is also having a very interesting virtual instance. On one hand, a blog of the course has been built, open to any interested persons, is not only giving an account of the developments of the course and allowing the interaction among participants, but also articulates key virtual libraries to those who visit it. At the same time, it has very valuable systematization audiovisual material. Using Twitter and the hashtag # systematization, we are making the discussion wider. With two sessions held (out of a total of eight), the course has begun to mobilize not only those physically present, but some colleagues are encouraging us in building a virtual presence from it.
The experience (not yet systematized!) seems to show that a close link between on-site and virtual opportunities can be a path full of potential for capacity building in evaluation.
ECDG Advisory Group