60 Seconds with…David Fleming

Our ‘60 Seconds with…’ blogs are designed to provide a quick run down of what our staff do here at Itad. Here is what David had to say…

What’s your job here at Itad?

I am a Senior Consultant and lead Itad’s portfolio of monitoring and evaluating in conflict and post-conflict environments.

What does that involve?

It mostly involves working on evaluations of, and designing M&E systems for, donor programmes that aim to reduce the risk of conflict and humanitarian crisis in some of the world’s most fragile and insecure contexts. Given the enormous challenges of conducting research in such places, there is a substantial lack of evidence on what works, for whom and why. Addressing these challenges and presenting donor agencies with evidence-based findings and lessons on how to deliver results in these environments is at the heart of the portfolio.

How did you get into the field?

I actually started off as a mathematician before switching to do a BA in German Studies where I focused a lot of my research on representations of Africa and development in the German media as I was spending most summer holidays at the time travelling and volunteering around East and Southern Africa. This then led to doing an MA in Transnational Studies where I wrote about representing South Africa’s marginalised urban poor through cultural production, as well as cross-border migration and language policy in Southern Africa. After that I was looking for jobs in international development and was really lucky to get offered a job at Itad!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the day-to-day variety of what I do. Whether I am designing evaluation methodologies, conducting focus groups in remote African villages or writing reports for publication I am never bored and always being challenged! I also love working with such a great bunch of highly intelligent and interesting people.

What new innovations/methods have you noticed in your sector?

Given the scarcity of robust evidence on what works and why in fragile and insecure contexts, together with an increasing donor concern around demonstrating results and impact, there is currently a lot of emphasis on applying rigorous evaluation approaches in the humanitarian sector. Some examples of current work I am involved in that engages with these debates include an evaluation of DFID’s humanitarian innovation and evidence programme, which seeks to improve the evidence base underpinning humanitarian action; and an evaluation of DFID’s humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan, which aims to build the evidence base and learn lessons from DFID’s response to a rapid onset disaster in a middle-income context so as to improve future responses.

Recent highlight/job wins?

I have just finished an evaluation of Finland’s global support to peace and development, which has just been published here. I am finalising an evaluation of Denmark’s global humanitarian strategy – soon to be published so watch this space! I am also back at PRDU, University of York at the end of the month to run an annual seminar with a bunch of their MA students on the challenges of doing M&E in fragile contexts, which is always great fun!

Most interesting question you have been asked recently?

Someone asked me recently what I would have done if I hadn’t got into international development, which reminded me that I was torn when choosing MA courses and nearly went down the route of endangered language preservation. I think I made the right choice but often hanker after the days when I had time to learn new languages…!

Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?

I love travelling in South Sudan, which happened to be where I did my first consultancy when I joined Itad and where I was again recently, about 9 months after the conflict was reignited. I also love travelling in Ethiopia – fascinating culture, incredibly beautiful and diverse landscape, amazing people, plus I could probably eat injera every day!

David Fleming, January 2015