“Tell me again why you are going to Cameroon?” my wife asked. I paused, searching for an answer. New business? Not really, although that is always welcome. Old connections? I have very few among those currently working in Africa. What should I say? How could I explain?
I decided to confess.
“Because I am curious. There is something exciting going on across Africa. The African Evaluation Association—AfrEA—is playing a critical role. I want to learn more about it. Support it. Maybe be a part of it.”
She found that perfectly reasonable. I suppose that is why I married her.
Then she asked more questions about the conference and how my work might be useful to practitioners in that part of the world. As it turns out, she was curious, too. I believe many are, especially evaluation practitioners.
It takes a certain irrational obsessiveness, however, to fly 32 hours because you are curious.
For those not yet prepared to follow their curiosity to such lengths, I will be blogging about the AfrEA Conference over the next week.
You can find guest posts about the previous AfrEA conference in Ghana two years ago here, here, here, and here.
Check back here for the latest conference news from Youndé, Cameroon.
From Tarek Azzam in Accra, Ghana: The last two days have been hectic on many fronts. Matt and I spent approximately 4 hours on Monday trying to work out technical bugs. Time well spent as it looks like we will be able to stream parts of the conference live. You can find the schedule and links here.
I have had the chance to speak with many conference participants from across Africa at various social events. In almost every conversation the same issue keeps emerging—the disconnect between what donors expect to see on the ground (and expect to be measured) and what grantees are actually seeing on the ground (and do not believe they can measure). Although this is a common issue in the US where I do much of my work, it appears to be more pronounced in the context of development programs.
This tension is a source of frustration for many of the people with whom I speak—they truly believe in the power of evaluation to improve programs, promote self-reflection, and achieve social change. However, demands from donors have pushed them to focus on evaluation questions and measures that are not necessarily useful to their programs or the people their programs benefit. I am interested in speaking with some of the donors attending the conference to get their perspective on this issue. I believe that donors may be looking for impact measures that can be aggregated across multiple grantees, and this may lead to the selection of measures that are less relevant to any single grantee, hence the tension.
I plan on keeping you updated on further conversations and discussions as they occur. Tomorrow I will be helping to conduct a workshop on building evaluation capacity within Africa, and really engaging participants as they help us come up with a list of competencies and capacities that are uniquely relevant to the development/African context. Based on the lively conversations I have had so far, I anticipate a rich and productive exchange of ideas tomorrow. I will share them with you as soon as I can.
Hello my name is Tarek Azzam, and I am an Assistant Professor at Claremont Graduate University. Over the next few days I will blog about my experiences at the 6th Biennial AfrEA Conference in Accra, Ghana. The theme of the conference is “Rights and Responsibility in Development Evaluation.” As I write this, I await the start of the conference tomorrow, January 9.
The conference is hosted by the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) and Co-Organized by the Ghana Monitoring & Evaluation Forum (GMEF). For those who live or work outside of Africa, these may be unfamiliar organizations. I encourage you to learn more about them and other evaluation associations around the world through the International Organisation for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE).
Ross Conner, Issaka Traore, Sulley Gariba, Marie Gervais, and I will present a half day workshop on developing evaluation capacity within Africa, along with a panel discussion.
I am also working with Matt Galen to broadcast via the internet some of the keynote sessions at the conference and share them with others. I will send links as they become available.
I am very excited about the start of the conference. It is a new venue for me and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.