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Message from the President

Lennise Baptiste
Our last newsletter, published in both English and Spanish, received very good reviews from individuals and organisations in the CEI network. 

The Red Internacional de Evaluación de Políticas Públicas (RIEPP), a professional VOPE in Mexico which focuses on the evaluation of Public Policy, positively acknowledged the CEI newsletter and shared its monthly bulletin, Boletín RIEPP. This exchange led to the bulletin being translated from Spanish to English by CEI editorial committee member Molly Hamm, who is located in the Dominican Republic.   

In this new offering, the newsletter editorial committee, led by Valerie Gordon, Vice-President & VP Research and  Publications, has chosen to focus on Evaluation of the SDGs, which is currently a “hot” topic across all professional sectors. The articles in this issue offer much food for thought as the authors sought to describe some of the practical considerations necessary to evaluate the SDGs generally (Claudia Nicholson) and then specifically in the areas of the environment (Perry Polar), citizen security (Tonya Pierre-Gopaul), and the public sector (Chez Thomas). Also included is a note about our first webinar on Empowerment Evaluation and the SDGs, which was given by Dr. David Fetterman on December 1.  

In this issue, you will also learn about the new national VOPE being formalised in Trinidad and Tobago, and a proposed collaboration between the CEI and the African Evaluation Association. The CEI’s strategic goal of becoming a forum for regional and international organisations to locate regional evaluators, was in focus during the last quarter as many organizations and individuals sought the organisation’s assistance to find regional professionals for a range of evaluation assignments.   

As we approach the close of 2016 and look to the beginning of 2017, I would like to extend, on behalf of the CEI Board, best wishes to CEI members and others in our network.


Volume 1, Number 2
Winter 2016

In this Issue...


Monitoring and Evaluating the SDGs in the Caribbean

What is the Purpose of Monitoring our Plans in Government?
 
Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals

M&E Systems for Citizen Security Interventions in a Developing Country

Formation of VOPE in Trinidad and Tobago

International Alumni Award for CEI President

AfREA Collaboration

Empowerment Evaluation Webinar

Upcoming Events

Monitoring and Evaluating the SDGs in the Caribbean

by: Claudia Nicholson, VP of Evaluation for the CEI Board
As with any monitoring and evaluating exercise, monitoring and evaluating the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires an implementation plan, the setting of targets, defining SMART indicators, establishing baselines, systematic monitoring and evaluating. Key to this plan is ensuring people are assigned to actually carry out the task of monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress. The United Nations has established parameters, such as targets and indicators, on a global level, for monitoring and evaluating the SDGs. Yet, some of the pieces are still incomplete.  For example, the global framework is still being finalised.  That is, while over 200 individual indicators have been identified, some are lacking universal benchmarks. This is to be addressed during the next round of meetings by the International Expert Group on SDG Indicators.  

In the Caribbean, it is still unclear how much is happening at the country level or regionally, regarding arrangements for the monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs. Regionally and sub-regionally, CARICOM and the OECS have indicated that the priority areas identified in their Strategic Plans are congruent with the SDGs. But what does that mean? Is there systematic data collection taking place in order to monitor and measure progress on these priority areas? Will these priority areas be revisited to incorporate the SDG indicators or are they proxies for the SDGs?  

By any standard, and in any country, monitoring and evaluating the SDGs is an ambitious task. A vast amount of disaggregated data has to be systematically collected, collated and analysed. Yet, the Caribbean region, being data poor, is lacking in timely and high quality disaggregated data (e.g., by sex). Moreover, data collection is costly, and many countries and regional organizations cannot afford this on a consistent basis. Notwithstanding, some improvements to statistical data collection are currently underway with support from the European Union, the Government of Canada and others. For example, the Government of Canada is embarking on a $19.9 million project in 14 Caribbean countries to assist national statistical agencies with establishing best practices in data collection. At the same time, the migration of highly skilled labour from the region can contribute to a lack of absorptive capacity. Together with poor data collection infrastructure, such issues pose a threat to the long-term sustainability of these efforts.  

So where does this leave the Caribbean? It is possible that UN agencies in the region, such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), UNDP and UN WOMEN will play a role in helping to set the regional agenda for monitoring and evaluating the SDGs. International donors are other likely sources of support, but most important will be multi-stakeholder involvement of private and public sectors, non government organisations, academia, the general citizenry, and harnessing the knowledge bases and resources of regional professional associations such as the Caribbean Network of Urban and Land Management and the Caribbean Evaluators International (CEI). 

What is the Purpose of Monitoring our Plans in Government?

by: Chez Thomas, VP of Finance and Fundraising for CEI Board
The monitoring of development interventions and institutional programmes has become a high priority for the Government of Jamaica. Gone are the days when Government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) would acquire their budget without a plan. Now, all agencies must produce, on an annual basis, a Strategic Business Plan or a Corporate Plan, which has to be in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, the goals of Jamaica’s National Development Plan “Vision 2030”, as well as central Government’s priorities for the country.    

However, an entity’s Strategic Planning Process does not end with the production of a Business Plan.  After the submission of such a plan to the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Cabinet, the organisation is required to produce performance reports, which should track the progress made towards the goals and objectives of the business plan.  

Although only recently operationalized, monitoring has now become an integral part of the government’s sector planning process.  The benefits of monitoring have been officially recognized, as well as the importance of involving managers in the process.   

Monitoring can be defined as an ongoing process by which regular feedback is obtained regarding the progress being made towards achieving desired goals and objectives. It is important because:  

  • It provides information showcasing project or programme progress; 

  • It allows managers and organisations to learn from experiences and build on expertise and knowledge; 

  • It allows organisations to detect mistakes early and provides opportunities for course correction; 

  • Monitoring adds value for the development of individuals, organisations and of the whole country.  

Misconceptions about the purpose of monitoring can cause managers to be reluctant to support the process.   Common perceptions are that personal performance and / or competencies are being assessed or evaluated.  

This is not the case. Monitoring provides structure for the organisation to present its results to the public in a systemic, clear format with documentary evidence on how public funds have been utilized.  Most importantly, monitoring establishes a level of accountability which promotes trust, facilitates partnerships and opens up the possibility for funding. Additionally, the monitoring system allows the organisation to examine itself, to get it right and announce effectively its progress towards achievement of our national goals. 

Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals

by: Dr. Perry Polar and Dr. Asad Mohammed, Caribbean Network of Land and Urban Management
The Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM), also known as BlueSpace, operates as a secretariat for building the capacity of land management professionals and improving land use and physical planning processes in the Caribbean. Its mission is:
 
“To provide a networking mechanism bringing together people, organizations, and institutions committed to enriching urban and land management processes in the Caribbean through regional dialogue, knowledge management and capacity building.”
 
CNULM is best known for being the main organizer of the Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF), an annual Conference that brings together high level decision makers, academics, municipal managers and other urban professionals for policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and training on urban sector issues. Six CUFs have been held in the following countries: Guyana (2011); Jamaica (2012); Trinidad (2013); Barbados (2014); St. Lucia (2015) and Suriname (2016). CUF 2017 is scheduled for Belize on 17th -19th May 2017 and the theme is [Green] Economy, Energy & Space – Pathways to Urban Sustainability.   
 
The CNULM currently partners with the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Local Government Authorities (TTALGA) to execute a project entitled: Localizing the SDGs in the Caribbean, (2016-2018).  The goal is to strengthen local governance in Trinidad and Tobago to ensure that the national targets of selected Sustainable Development Goals are achieved. The following results are envisaged:
 
  • The structures and capacity of TTALGA are strengthened so the organization can be a catalyst to support and enhance the role of Local Government in the national development process, especially with respect to the SDGs;
  • The potential role of Local Government in implementing the SDGs, and the necessity of involving local government in developing national policy is understood by local and national government;
  • Establishment of a municipal indicator system based on selected SDGs, and monitoring the impact of selected projects in the areas of open space management, waste management, poverty reduction and local economic development, and development planning and control;
  • Improved capacity of municipalities to develop municipal indicators and manage projects, based on training workshops delivered;
Lessons learnt will be shared with the broader national community of Local Authorities, relevant national ministries, technical agencies, civil society and the regional Local Government community to facilitate further implementation of the SDGs.

M&E Systems for Citizen Security Interventions in a Developing Country

by: Tonya Pierre-Gopaul, M&E Specialist, Trinidad and Tobago Citizen Security Programme
Evaluation in the real world seldom follows the clearly defined and highly manicured path indicated by the programme’s logic model.  Additionally, the more complex the intervention and the issues it addresses, the less likely it is that the traditional ‘gold standard’ of experimental designs, such as the Randomized Control Trial, can be applied.  

Citizen Security Interventions often fall outside the ‘gold standard’ arena - particularly in a developing country context with limited resources, time constraints, high levels of political influence, weak institutions and multiple development initiatives operating in the same geographic space. 

Monitoring and Evaluation systems which achieve their core purpose of driving continuous improvement in outcomes, however, can still be established. Some strategies to achieve this include: 

  1. Spending the time during the design phase to explore the environment within which the intervention will operate and to define priorities in terms of realistic outcomes within a given time frame. Once these priorities are clear, there is a need to determine the extent to which the existing data collection and analysis capability at an institutional level, can accommodate the specific requirements of the M&E system. This is often not the case. The questions to be asked are then: (i) Can such capacity, be built concurrently?  For example, what would facilitate the generation of the necessary data by national statistical offices and agencies responsible for police administrative data? (ii) If this capacity does not exist, and cannot be adequately developed over the short to medium term, what alternative data sources or methods of data collection should be considered? What additional mechanisms would have to be put in place to ensure that these alternatives provide credible evidence of results?  

In both scenarios above, there are likely to be time, cost and human resource implications which should be carefully weighed and factored into the planning process. 

  1. Adapting the delivery of the intervention itself to incorporate a technology enabled M&E system that facilitates agile monitoring, feedback loops and learning; while offering realistic, context relevant, low cost options to answer evaluation questions.  

  1. Reconstructing the baseline for the intervention group (s) and / or appropriate comparison groups (in cases where no official baseline existed) using secondary data sources, focus groups, key informant interviews and survey questions based on recall.  

  1. Systematically assessing the relative level of influence of factors external to the project on results for both the intervention group and the comparison group, rather than a focus on conclusively ‘proving’ attribution. This should involve feedback from multiple stakeholders, and use of mixed method approaches.   

  1. Packaging M&E information for decision makers, direct implementers/executing agencies and project staff using appropriate communication tools targeting each group.

Formation of VOPE in Trinidad and Tobago

On 22 September 2016, eight of the 16 CEI members from Trinidad and Tobago held a meeting focused on the establishment of a national VOPE. The meeting was chaired by Lennise Baptiste. Also in attendance was Curline Beckford, Vice-President and VP for Membership and Recruitment.  The meeting consisted of an informal meet and greet. Ms. Beckford shared information about the start-up process of the Jamaica VOPE.  Attendees also learned some of the details about preliminary activities within the Trinidad and Tobago government with respect of its "getting ready" to operationalise a national M&E policy.  

During the meeting, CEI member, Alexa Khan shared her experience and various lessons learned while she was a Board member of the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS).  Members were also able to learn about some of the issues which independent consultants face. The four main areas of interest were: National VOPE - leadership and management; Organising professional development events; the EvalAgenda 2016-2020; and Conference planning and attendance.

International Alumni Award for CEI President

We want to extend heartiest congratulations to our hardworking President, and colleague Dr. Lennise Baptiste who, in October this year, was honoured by her alma mater, Kent State University, at a ceremony held in Ohio, USA. The “International Alumni Award” was bestowed on Lennise in recognition of her contribution to the field of evaluation since her graduation from Kent State U. in 2010, with a PhD in Evaluation and Measurement. Since that time, her work as an independent consultant in the field of program evaluation has included  assignments by donors such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the European Union, UNICEF, the Caribbean Development Bank, as well as the governments of Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and Anguilla. Lennise is no stranger to awards; she is the 2010 recipient of the Michael Scriven Dissertation Award for the contribution of her work to Evaluation Theory, Methodology and Practice. The highly competitive award, conferred by the Western Michigan University, is open to US as well as international students. She is a founding member and the current President of the Caribbean Evaluators International, with special responsibility for Professional Development and Training. In addition to this, Lennise is the chair of the Mixed-Methods Topical Interest Group (TIG) of the American Evaluation Association. We want to express our pleasure that she is one of us and wish her every success as she continues to pursue her passion for evaluation practice, knowing well that the region and our organisation can only benefit from having her work alongside us.

AfREA Collaboration

Photo taken at American Evaluation Association (AEA) Conference

From left to right: Elvis Fraser (Gates Foundation), Adeline Sibanda (President AfREA), Valerie Gordon (VP CEI), Lennise Baptiste (President, CEI)
At the recent American Evaluation Association Conference in Atlanta, a meeting was convened by CEI member, Mr. Elvis Fraser of the Gates Foundation, to discuss the possibility of South-South collaboration between the CEI and the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA). In attendance were: Ms. Sibanda, President of AfrEA, and CEI Board members, Dr Lennise Baptise and Ms Valerie Gordon. The focus of the meeting was on the relevance and transferability of the MADE IN AFRICA EVALUATION framework to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the participation of CEI at the 8th AfrEA International Conference, scheduled for 27-31 March 2017,  Kampala, Uganda. Information on the conference can be found at (http://conferences.afrea.org).  The theme is: Evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa. Three of the 22 conference strands - 1 – Role of Government in Evaluating SDGs; 2 – Partnerships for Evaluating SDGs; and 16 – Made in Africa Evaluation - are of particular interest, as the CEI is expected to contribute to a panel discussion on these topics.
Webinar on Empowerment Evaluation
CEI held its first webinar with speaker Dr. David Fetterman presenting on Empowerment Evaluation: Building Evaluation Capacity and Producing Outcomes. Attendees included members and non-members residing in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, Canada, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla.

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

African Evaluation Association (AfREA) 
March 27 - 31, 2017 Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, Kampala, Uganda
Theme: Evaluation of the SDGs: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa
http://conferences.afrea.org

2017 Canadian Evaluation Society Conference
April 30 - May 3, 2017, Vancover, Canada Facing Forward: Innovation, Action, and Reflection  http://c2017.evaluationcanada.ca/

2017 UK Evaluation Society Annual Conference
May 10-11, 2017 London, United Kingdom
Theme:  The use and usability of evaluation: Demonstrating and improving the usefulness of evaluation
http://www.profbriefings.net/index.php/news/61-2017-annual-evaluation-conference

Caribbean Urban Forum 2017
May 17 -19, 2017 Belize City, Belize
Theme: Green Energy, Green Economy, and Green Space
http://bluespacecaribbean.com/cuf/caribbean-urban-forum-2017/

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