Unlike other professions such as accountants or doctors, the field of ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’ is relatively new and non-standardised. Employers and recruiters of M&E staff don’t always know what they’re looking for, and presently in Africa, there is no harmonisation of competencies, resulting in the variable quality of practitioners. Academic and non-academic training programmes are also not standardised and there is very little harmonisation or deliberate consensus across institutions in terms of curriculum content and instructional design.
As part of Twende Mbele’s initiatives to improve the quality and number of evaluators in Africa, CLEAR AA and Twende are partnering to explore what a harmonised post-graduate curriculum should look like. This initiative encourages a collaborative development and harmonization of M&E competencies and curriculum in Africa, while aiming to bring more consistency to the standards of M&E training available on the continent. In September of 2016, Twende and CLEAR-AA began the initiative with higher education institutions (HEIs), public sector training institutions, government and various Voluntary Associations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs). What followed were two workshops in Kenya and Ghana and then further engagements with 11 African countries in 2017.
Two problems were identified that provided the catalyst for initiating this project. Firstly, the absence of harmonised competencies across Africa obscures any certainty of the skills and capabilities needed for quality evaluation practice. Secondly, a lack of agreed upon standards hampers the progression of the profession as a whole, but especially when creating frameworks to develop Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) programmes. There is value in building consensus towards harmonising evaluation education in Africa as that would contribute to the standardisation and professionalization of Evaluation Capacity Building. Improved individual and institutional capacities for M&E evidence production and use would support more effective National Evaluation Systems (NES), which are linked to improved governance systems.
Discussions, Findings and Deliverables
During the various workshops held over the last two years, discussions involved some of the major players in evaluation education who were particularly focused on the state of evaluation training and evaluation education in Anglophone Africa. There was consensus on the ‘homeless’ nature of the discipline, with extensive conversation on the need to decide on the foundational building blocks to better position education and training. Improving the capacity within universities for teaching on evaluations (including providing hands-on experience) and the best approaches to evaluation education for the continent were also hot topics of conversations.
There were some concerns over the quality of teaching in M&E and the absence of a standardised M&E curriculum, while some people stressed that the existing curricula are overly western and not inclusive of African scholarship. During these discussions it became clear that collaboration amongst HEI’s and other stakeholders involved in evaluation education was necessary to build consensus and fill in gaps in knowledge. At the end of consultations, three deliverables for the project were identified:
- construct a framework for harmonising M&E competencies for the African continent
- create a curriculum framework for post-graduate qualifications in M&E
- establish guidelines on the institutional arrangements/mechanisms that will support the wide-spread use of the competency and curriculum framework.
Progress so far…
Three task teams have been constituted, however, more inclusivity and consultation is needed. The task teams are tackling the development of discussion documents on the three aforementioned deliverables.
The drafting of the discussion documents is part of a broader consultation process, as collaboration is key in developing harmonised competencies and curriculum for the continent. Increasing the level of collaboration is the primary goal of this year as universities (and other institutional evaluation capacity building role-players) need to be partners and co-owners in order to adopt and roll out the proposed competencies and curriculum framework. To this end, a write-shop will be held in October 2018 to engage on and review the contents of the three deliverables.
This is a contested space, where intellectual property concerns bring into sharp focus questions of public good vs financial sustainability, particulalrly as the higher education sector grapples with declining revenue levels across the continent. High-demand programmes (such as M&E) are therefore a key source of revenue, and intellectual property is the currency of HEIs. It is also important the initiative is not hampered by questions over leadership and mandates, and therefore CLEAR AA and Twende are committed to playing a coordination role, but will not dicatate the direction or content of the final outputs. Some key questions that the collective would need to reflect on include the following:
- Are there some unique elements to the African context, which need to be built into a collaborative competency framework for M&E practitioners? How are these different to other, existing, competency frameworks in individual partner countries (such as South Africa) and globally? This is against a rising tide of the Made in Africa Evaluation (MAE) philosophy as well as the South to South Evaluation (S2SE) concept gaining ground in the global South and beyond.
- What modes of delivery would most appropriate (e.g. traditional, online?) What other institutional mechanisms might be needed to support other types of capacity development, e.g. mentorships, secondment, internships, online?
The Collaborative Curriculum Development Project, although not complete, continues to redefine imagination around evaluation education by tackling the issues of harmonising evaluation education and creating competencies required for M&E practitioners in the African continent head-on. Twende Mbele and CLEAR AA are commited to ensure that there is robust engagement with all stakeholders in this critical area of M&E capacity development in order to iron out a way forward.
And here’s where you come in….The project requires input from various stakeholders and interested parties alike, in order to ensure a comprehensive consultation and consensus-building process. Interested individuals may join one of three task teams (competencies, curriculum or institutional arrangements) and contribute to the discussion documents. If you are keen to add your views or commit your institution to a longer term engagement, please contact Candice Morkel, at [email protected]