Group of Young Evaluators in Senegal Take Initiative
It’s difficult for young evaluators to get ahead and have a say in the field—students, recent graduates, and young executives face many challenges, such as limited training and job opportunities and scarce interactions with peers and experts. So, to promote more knowledge exchange, professional opportunities, and legitimacy, a group of young evaluators in Senegal have formed a flourishing network for their peers.
Challenges for Young Evaluators
“Evaluation is a growing career path, but visibility, employment, and networking opportunities can be limited for us,” says Ousséni Kinda, a young M&E consultant with Save the Children in Senegal. “Another key challenge is related to capacity building. Most of the time, evaluation training and programs are not free.”
Last year, the CLEAR Francophone Africa Center at Centre Africain d'Etudes Superieures en Gestion (CESAG), in Senegal, along with the Senegalese Evaluation Association (SenEval), discussed how the evaluation community could better support young evaluators and promote intergenerational dialogue.
Boubacar Aw, coordinator of the CLEAR Francophone Africa Center, says, “We realized more support is critical for a generation to carry the torch. Collaboration is needed between seasoned professionals and young people with potential.”
Seminar Jumpstarts a Conversation
In September 2014, CLEAR Francophone Africa and SenEval organized a seminar at CESAG for young evaluators as part of a broader series on evaluation practice. The seminar brought together young evaluators with experienced actors from national evaluations units, firms, NGOs and development agencies, such as the African Development Bank and World Bank.
More than 70 participants exchanged experiences and strategies to address the challenges faced by young evaluators and strengthened connections between the young and more experienced evaluators. Topics discussed included tips and tools for successful careers, core competencies for an evaluator, and finding opportunities for work experience.
Participants Create a Think Tank
Inspired by their participation in the seminar, 10 of the attending young evaluators formed a group to continue the knowledge exchange and reflection. They aimed for this "think tank" to be a promotional platform for research, individual development, and mutual enrichment that would enjoy coaching and supervision from SenEval with the support of CLEAR.
The initiative primarily targets youth in SenEval who are interested in good practices in assessment, research work, capacity building, and publication in journals on evaluation. The group meets in monthly working sessions at CESAG or SenEval offices.
CLEAR Francophone Africa and SenEval provide technical and logistical support, including scientific coaching, moderating panels, organizing learning activities, and facilitating access to resources. "At CLEAR, we felt by supporting this initiative we could sow the seed of evaluation in the young,” says Boubacar Aw. “Building the capacity of young evaluators helps to guarantee a promising future and an institutionalization of evaluation culture in organizations."
Strengthening Young Careers in Evaluation
A few members of the group relay how it has benefited their professional lives:
Safyatou Diallo, deputy general secretary at SenEval
“The group gives me the opportunity to improve my skills through organized activities as well as the courage and motivation to look for resources and ask questions. I can share my work with the group to get their feedback and suggestions.”
Ya Cor Ndione, research assistant at IPAR, a regional think tank
“The group has helped me to improve my job performance and research, and now I have a forum to share my research results and explore other areas. For example, this group gave me the idea of exploring evaluation when looking at the impact of policymakers' choices on youth employment. The camaraderie is important and allows me to allay any professional fears.”
Amos Menard, program assistant at CLEAR-CESAG
“This platform helps strengthen our expertise in evaluation and related fields, enrich our experience, and enhance our competitiveness. It allows us to boost our careers and take control of our destinies. For example, I acquired tips and tools for submitting papers to several international conferences. The coaching I received from senior-level practitioners allowed me to improve myself in many areas, which I have applied in our Voluntary Organizations of Professional Evaluators' board.”
Another bonus of such a group—CLEAR, policymakers, and evaluation managers have at their fingertips a niche of young, qualified experts that can be easily mobilized. According to Ian Hopwood, the group’s senior advisor from SenEval, “Strengthening national evaluation capacities in a sustainable manner requires the development of a cohort of well-trained and motivated young professionals, who can grow and mature into the next generation of credible and respected evaluation leadership.”
Group Activities and Accomplishments
The group is excited about current and future projects, which include:
- Proposals for Canadian Evaluation Society 2015 National Conference. The group is working on four papers, which cover the role of M&E for improving child protection services, the challenge of professionalizing evaluation in Francophone Africa, and using evaluation to examine youth employment and participation in development policies. The papers fit with a conference panel on the voice of young African evaluators.
- Mentoring Program. In an early phase at SenEval, this project aims for established, senior evaluators to mentor up-and-coming evaluators through a transfer of knowledge and skills.
- Leadership in SenEval. The group wanted to have a strategic position on the SenEval Executive Board and just had two candidates voted in at the SenEval General Assembly. “We felt that young people needed a voice there, to get involved and rise up to the challenge—being allowed to lead where there is an opportunity,” says group member Ousséni Kinda.
In 2015, CLEAR Francophone Africa aims to become more involved to help fulfill the group’s potential. As coordinator of the CLEAR center, Boubacar Aw says, “The initiative has gathered a favorable response and strong interest from the international community of practice. The center’s ambition is to continue to encourage youth to join networks and promote research and innovation in evaluation.”
Pictured in photo from left to right: Safyatou Diallo, Senegalese Evaluation Association (SenEval); Ya Cor Ndione, Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rural (IPAR); Ousséni Kinda, Save the Children; Aminata Balde, Centre for Policy Studies for Development (CEPOD); Jérôme Gandin, visitor with the group who leads the emerging evaluators section of the Quebec Society for Program Evaluation (SQEP); Amos Menard, CLEAR-Centre Africain d'Etudes Superieures en Gestion (CESAG); Adele Dione, Senegalese Evaluation Association (SenEval); Aminata Diop, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Safyatou Kane, US Agency for International Development (USAID).