I did not make the move to New York. In the end it’s Plan B.2. “Just find the cheapest flight”, nudged a Colombian friend from graduate school who now works in Lima. Three days later at 4:00 in the morning, I found myself searching for flights. And a week later I found myself in Peru.
Almost three weeks had passed since my last day at work and I was still stuck in Washington DC. In between those three weeks, I became savvy with Craigslist postings to sell whatever furniture my studio apartment managed to host: a full bed ($50) and a solid metal shelf ($20). Earlier I gave away two wicker chairs in exchange for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. For more than a week I slept on an air mattress lent by another friend. A sofa bed ($40) also went quick to the bedroom of a former officemate, which came with free lifting service. The last two pieces furniture that lent a semblance of ‘home’ were a table and an office chair (free). When a neighbor bought the table ($15), I knew was really time to go. I spent the last day packing and cleaning in my Foggy Bottom apartment, which I called home for almost two years. Then a friend put me up in his place in a neighborhood aptly called Friendship Heights.
There was no grand farewell party. I got a couple of dinner treats, which I tentatively accepted. Farewell parties, it seems, are only for occasions when one is forever banished and never to return again. Will this trip be just a two-month stint, or will I stay for an indefinite period? Will I move to another place after some time? I’ll be treating this trip like a learning holiday at the very least.
I’m already in Lima. Still, I’m living out of a suitcase as I move from one apartment to another as I find an ideal living arrangement, my itinerant start seeming like a microcosm of the past years. I’ve stayed in the bohemian district of Barranco, upscale side of Miraflores, and might go back for a week to Barranco only to leave again for Miraflores the next. On my second day of stay in the city, I met a girl who is a fellow Filipino. And another Filipino the other day. I’ve been invited to a Peruvian family dinner, and saw a glimpse of a LImeno Friday night. All these after only having been in Lima for ten days.
I’m not really livin’ la vida loca. Or maybe I am in a more literal sense. Packing my bags and hopping on a plane to leave behind Washington DC and fly to a part of the world I’ve never been to actually come quite close.
The DAAD scholarship information packet for academic year 2014/2015 is already out. I was a recipient of the same scholarship back in 2007 to 2009 to pursue a MSc in Environmental Governance degree. I went to the University of Freiburg, which I consider to be a ‘German Ivy League’. Fine, it’s a bit of a stretch, but still…
If you want to learn from a respectable university on a full ride including tuition AND stipend, are averse to student loans that can weigh down your career options and financial security, and have been dreaming of experiencing Europe in its full glory, a DAAD scholarship might just be your Mercedes Benz to Germany’s education Autobahn.
Did you study in Germany through a DAAD scholarship? How do you think did it benefit you and your career? Any tips to future scholarship applicants? Please share them in the comment section below.
Today officially marks my last day at the GEF EO, and subsequently as moderator of the Climate-Eval community of practice. My two-year term came and went so quickly. In-between those two years, however, are some learning and insights worth highlighting in my final blog post as Climate-Eval Moderator.
I have a confession to make: I am not an evaluator. While I have worked with Climate-Eval members, a big number of whom are evaluators, I myself have never conducted an evaluation. Thus, I had to learn on the job. And learning about evaluation, as in any endeavor, has been challenging albeit rewarding. This has squarely complemented my previous country-level experience in project and policy analysis in the environment sector and climate change. Reviewing how national policies and programs could be designed to increase their success rate is complex enough. Yet understanding and determining whether they were indeed successful is not any easier. Climate change and its compounding issues of complexity and uncertainty pose challenges to this end.
Part of my work as moderator was to draft approach papers and manage research studies on how evaluations are being conducted and how they could be improved. This entailed rummaging through work of development cooperation agencies, think-tanks and academics on indicators, evaluation reports, and other related literature. As our community of practice progresses and has finished three studies looking at evaluation frameworks, guidelines and tools, it has become apparent that to come up with evaluation standards and norms, more work and collaboration with other networks and organizations is needed.
I applied for and took on this job primarily for two reasons. It involved work in the field of environment and climate change, and online media. While the internet facilitated online communication which proved very useful for Climate-Eval members who are dispersed all over the globe, this type of interaction still possesses some inherent limitations. Emails and webinars lacked the personal touch of face-to-face communication. During my official travels I had the fortune of attending, I finally met several of our members. This virtual to real exchange somehow became the model for getting to know and connecting with members beyond Skype calls and webinar discussions. I was an observer and participant to meaningful discussions that arose from this model. Upon meeting some members in person, virtual acquaintances gradually turn to personal connections.
We may have a lofty goal in our community to improve our knowledge and skills in conducting high-quality evaluations for climate change and development interventions, but it’s one that is necessary. It holds all of us accountable as actors for the work that we do, be they the introduction of energy efficient light bulbs or minimizing disastrous impacts of natural calamities.
As I write this, the search for the new moderator is still in progress. Yet I encourage everyone to continue the interesting discussions in our Linkedin Group and start interacting with the new moderator as soon as he or she takes on the role I’m leaving. As a new moderator comes on board, so will exciting developments in our community which we should all look forward to and engage in. I am bidding farewell as Climate-Eval Moderator, but I will remain a member of our community and look forward to its future pursuits.
This was originally posted on the Climate-Eval blog.
Like remedying relationships on the rocks, JPAs are required to undergo a cool-off period. While a cool-off period is supposed to be short, ours is exactly two years. And Day 1 of those two years will start on April 11. But effectively I have eight days left as a JPA at the GEF Evaluation Office. I’ll go on a one-week break to New York with my parents before my longer and more indefinite break actually start.
I have yet to figure out what next steps to take, although I have loosely laid out my plans A, B and/or C. Plan A, which is the ideal scenario, is to find and smoothly transition into a job, preferably in New York or here in Washington DC. Plan B.1 is to move to and rough it up in New York for a couple of months. Plan B.2 is to fly to Latin America, perhaps Lima or Guatemala, to learn Spanish and do a bit of traveling on the side (or vice versa!). Plan C, which is starting to become Plan B.3, is to go back home, rest and settle down for the mean time. Besides, I’ve been away from the Philippines for almost six years.
What would you do if you were in my (running) shoes? It’s not too bad, though, because I’ve been in a similar place when I finished grad school and once again when my internship ended. It’s a precarious situation that’s anxiety-inducing, liberating and exciting all at the same time.
From 26 February to 1 March 2013, hundreds of evaluators will pilgrimage to Kathmandu, Nepal for the Evaluation Conclave 2013. The four-day congregation will consist of about 70 sessions on everything evaluation, from theories of change to outcome mapping. Six to seven presentations will occur simultaneously at any given time. With so many options to choose from, it’s easy to lose track of sessions which will cover topics on or related to climate change and development evaluation.
Below I am sharing my cheat sheet of the sessions I will most likely attend. This is in no way an endorsement of a particular presenter or and cannot vouch for the content of the sessions. Rather it is general guide of topics which are of interest to me and I generally find applicable to climate change.
Day 1 (Tuesday, February 26)
- Climate Change Adaptation M&E Time: 11:15 am to 12:45 pm, Location: Hall 4
- Introduction to Outcome Mapping, Day 1 Time: 1:45 pm to 3:15 pm, Location: Hall 4
Day 2 (Wednesday, February 27)
- Climate Change Mitigation M&E Time: 9:40 to 11:00 am, Location: Hall 6
- Achieving Use and Utilisation of Evaluation Time: 11:15 am to 12:45 pm, Location: Hall 1
- or Public Sector Evaluation Time: 11:15 am to 12:45 pm, Location: Hall 4
- Introduction to Outcome Mapping, Day 2 Time: 1:45 pm to 3:15 pm, Location: Hall 4
- Evaluation Learning Collaboratives: A Methodology for Improving the Quality of Monitoring and Evaluation Time: 1:45 pm to 3:15 pm, Location: Hall 2
- Expert Lecture: Why a Theory of Change Matters for Rigorous Impact Evaluation Time: 5:00 to 6:00 pm, Location: Hall 6
Day 3 (Thursday, February 28)
- Impact Evaluation: Theory and Practice, Day 1 Time: 9:40 to 11:00 am, Location: Hall 3
- or Equity and Resilience Time: 9:40 to 11:00 am, Location: Hall 4
- Climate Change M&E Knowledge Needs (disclaimer: I will be a facilitator in this session) Time: 1:45 to 3:15 pm, Location: Hall 2
- Systematic Reviews in International Development Time: 3:30 to 5:00 pm, Location: Hall 3
Day 4 (Friday, March 1)
- Impact Evaluation: Theory and Practice, Day 1 Time: 9:00 – 10:30 am, Location: Hall 3
- or Theories of Change Time: 9:00 – 10:30 am, Location: Hall 6
Have you decided which sessions you are going to attend? To download a pdf version of this document, please click here. To peruse the full agenda, please visit this page. If you are going to the Evaluation Conclave, I would be happy to meet you there. Email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. See you in Kathmandu!
Andrew Zubiri is the Moderator of Climate-Eval community of practice hosted at the Global Environment Facility Evaluation Office.
In response to Ian Thorpe’s post on professional blogging, which I also reblogged, it’s fair to ask what keeps staff from sharing knowledge and informed opinion about their profession through a blog. For sure there’s more to the ‘I don’t want to’ reason which make people remain reticent to tap away on their keyboard and hit the ‘publish’ button.
I myself only occasionally post what would count as ‘professional blogging’ on the blog community for evaluators I administer to give way to other bloggers. Most of the external writing and outreach I do go into our bi-monthly newsletter, Linkedin Group and Twitter. Yet I’ve made some observations and introspection on a few barriers to professional blogging, and I’m listing them below. While they are particular to blogging in the context of evaluation, some are also applicable to any profession in general.
1. Timing issues. In the field of evaluation, ex-post and summative evaluations are inherently conducted after the fact. They also require presentation to and approval of upper management or a higher governing board. Then they are packaged for dissemination to the wider public. By this time, information contained in the report becomes moot for project management units and perhaps worse, outdated. For the evaluators, it’s also time to move on to the next evaluation. A related barrier is that some evaluators are bound by their contracts to not share any information they are working on until the engagement is over or in some cases, not at all.
2. Fear of feedback. In my opinion, a blog that induces discussion is an effective blog. It means it is being read and subsequently stimulates interaction. Most professionals regard themselves as experts in their field, be it education, public health or the environment. When questioned, they turn hostile to feedback for they believe their level of expertise is infallible. On the flip side, bloggers who lack expertise will naturally attract corrective response. A better way to deal with feedback is to treat them as constructive criticisms for professional and even personal improvement.
3. Bureaucratic firewall. I once ‘found’ someone online who seems to be an expert in the field I am working on, so I sent her an email inviting her to write for our blog. She was very enthusiastic about the idea, but first had to check with her upper bosses to make sure she won’t be violating any confidentiality policies. After I sent a follow up email a few days later, she replied. With her permission, I’m quoting part of her reply: “I feel honoured that you ask again about the blog! But… Unforunately I think the message on my blog has be a “no”. I would have liked to just be free, sharing thoughts, tips and experiences whenever they come to my mind, but the burden of cross-checking each and everything I say across the organization is just too cumbersome and is in no proportion to the time I can actually dedicate to it.” I hope I’m not giving organizations any idea, but this tedious process that can eventually lead to censure is a perfect way to discourage blogging and bog down knowledge sharing.
4. Time. I know a few who have attempted to start blogging, they may have published a brilliant post or two. Afterwards the daily grind of work takes over. And then silence. These blogs lay somewhere in a dark corner of the internet, blogs with single entries where they cease to exist and remain forgotten forever. Unless it is your job to blog, you won’t spend your time blogging because there is lack of…
5. Incentive to share information. Incentives and disincentives are powerful mechanisms to nudge people to do (or not do) something, such as blogging. If your work does not require you to periodically share information, chances are you won’t do it. One way to address this is to explicitly state in the terms of reference that knowledge management including blogging, presenting in webinars and conferences, and other knowledge sharing platforms is part of your deliverables.
6. Locking-in knowledge and wisdom. This applies both to an organization or a development professional. This is understandable if you’re securing a trade secret, a patented product or a successful fried chicken recipe. In international development, this is antithetical where development cooperation agencies, NGO or government should ideally strive to communicate and coordinate their efforts. Some will try to maintain that intellectual edge, and tend to hoard institutional wisdom. Dismantling this attitude of knowledge monopoly is difficult to overcome and replace with building intellectual altruism, as many pioneering initiatives on knowledge management would show.
Until we overcome some of these barriers, be they organizational or the personal in nature, professional blogging will remain on the knowledge management wish list. What do you think will it take to break down these barriers?