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Learning from Past Experiences In Order to Progress

2011 November 15

Evaluating programs leads to improvement as lessons learned are incorporated. SFCG has researched different methods for evaluation of its programs in Nepal (picture) and Kenya.

In the shadow of Disneyland, in Anaheim CA, over 2,000 evaluators from all over the world gathered for November 2-5th for the Annual American Evaluation Association Conference. The conference is held annually to explore themes around program evaluation. This year’s theme was “Values and Valuing in Evaluation.”Special attention was paid to the plurality of audiences and purposes for which evaluation information can be used. It also addressed key evaluation questions and quality criteria in evaluation. Search for Common Ground staff from our Institutional Learning Team (ILT) moderated and presented at two panels.

Ratiba Taouti-Cherif, Design, Monitoring & Evaluation consultant working for SFCG in Senegal, moderated and presented a panel focused on Evaluating Media for Peacebuilding. Nick Oatley, Director of Institutional Learning, moderated a panel on Theories of Change and Peacebuilding. Jonathan White, Learning Portal Content Manager, presented the Learning Portal for DM&E for Peacebuilding which will go live in December. The Institutional Learning team is responsible for evaluating SFCG programs and sharing best practices and strategies across the organization. The conference provided a way for them to share their experiences and learn from others in order to foster creativity, create new opportunities, and magnify the results of SFCG’s work. Learn more about the Institutional Learning Team here.

During the panel she moderated, Ratiba Taouti-Cherif described how SFCG has embarked on a journey to find the best way of telling the story of transformation through its TV and radio dramas.

The effects of peacebuilding initiatives are often intangible (how do you prove what has been prevented?) and one of the central research questions for SFCG has been how to measure the effects of media on viewers’ attitudes and behavior. ILT has conducted evaluation by testing a cohort methodology in Nepal and a cultivation study in Kenya. Ratiba appreciated that the evaluation conference offered the unique opportunity to discuss the multiplicity of tools, approaches and contexts with specialists from the fields of media, peacebuilding, behavior change communication and evaluation.

Similarly, Nick Oatley, Director of Institutional Learning, emphasized the learning opportunity the conference provided. Many members of the peacebuilding field were in attendance and it was a rich opportunity for learning about methodologies, practices and programs. He was particularly inspired by the session led by Krishna Kumar, Senior Social Scientist in the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance at the US State Department. Kumar presented how the US State department developed its strategy on evaluation, on outcome indicators for governance and participatory democracy.

Jonathan White, Learning Portal Content Manager, held a short presentation with the goal to ignite discussion, where he presented the Learning Portal that SFCG is developing in cooperation with American University’s Peace and Development Institute. The portal is a comprehensive resource for practitioners and academics to improve the evaluation in the field of peacebuilding. Through evaluating and learning from previous experiences the field of peacebuilding can progress and become more effective rather than continually re-inventing the wheel. Especially important is a cross-fertilization between research evaluation and peacebuilding so that practitioners and academics can gain valuable insight to challenges and keep improving their programs and research.

The conference in California was a good example of a cross-fertilization and its sustainability was ensured through an impressive set of papers that were produced for the conference and are accessible for the public here. They mainly examine how media interventions affect cultural and social identity in a way that positively impacts social change.

Peacebuilding itself is a young field and effective evaluation of its practices and impacts are still developing. However, it can be informed by the more established evaluation practices in other fields, avoiding previous mistakes to improve program effectiveness, and thereby helping the field to grow and prosper.

SFCG recognizes the need for and potential of evaluation. In addition to our team focused on design, monitoring, and evaluation, The Learning Portal is aimed at fostering greater sharing within the peacebuilding and evaluation fields.

Sign up to receive a notification when the learning portal goes live at the end of November.




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