What’s your job here at Itad?
I’m one of the Associate Directors and I lead the companies’ work on Organisational Effectiveness.
What does that involve?
It involves winning work, managing work, and then trying to step back periodically and tease out any bigger issues and lessons that we’re learning. Organisational effectiveness is very much a cross cutting issue, so the sectors that we work in are quite diverse. At the moment, for example, I’m managing contracts with NORAD on capacity development in the public sector, with DFID on an evaluation of how best to build the capacity of policy makers in using research evidence, an organisational evaluation of Girl Hub, an evaluation of the effects that core funding has had on an INGO in Mozambique, and efforts to support evidence informed policy making in Health in India and China for NICE International. Much of my time at the moment is taken up managing large complex, multi-country evaluations, which involves helping teams get their evaluation designs in place, supporting the team leaders throughout the process and making sure all of the products we produce are of a high quality.
How did you get into the field?
I was always interested in international development, even back in school. I did a BA in Geography, and after graduating worked in Guatemala for a year. I then did an MA at IDS and subsequently worked there for a year, working primarily on a future health systems programme. After IDS I started working for a small think tank that conducted research on global governance, where I managed a project that assessed and compared the accountability and transparency of different global organisations. This got me interested in the drivers of organisational effectiveness, and specifically, the role of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in driving improvement and enabling an organisation to be accountable to its stakeholders. In this role I also started to dabble in consultancy, mainly with large INGOs. I really enjoyed the very practical aspects of working with an organisation to address a specific problem. After this I then moved to Bond (the network for UK development and humanitarian NGOs) and set up their effectiveness programme which was all about building the capacity of UK NGOs around M&E, which was fascinating. After two years at Bond I was looking for something new, but still wanted to continue working with an M&E focus. As one of the leading firms in M&E in international development, Itad was a perfect choice.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The diversity of work that you get to do – I come across lots of different issues – for example, I’ve got contracts looking at how to strengthen public sector institutions, building capacity for research use, and making results systems work more effectively. Also managing large complex evaluations is really interesting, but of course challenging. For example, working in a team to figure out how we are going to evaluate 8 different projects in 11 countries so that we can give them valuable insights into how best to improve their programmes, while trying to do this in such a way so that we can bring everything together and also say something robust about what works, where and why, is great. It’s such a skill to be able to do it well and working with people that are able to do this is such a pleasure. I often think organisations ask for these big evaluations, and never truly appreciate how difficult it is to do what they are asking for.
What new innovations or methods have you noticed in your sector?
I think the most interesting thing is not related to any specific method, but the rise of M&E more generally. When I started working on these issues it was a real challenge getting people, particularly senior managers, to take note. Now everyone is asking for support and you find yourself pushing on an open door!
Being part of the team that won the best evaluation of the year in Norwegian for our study of evaluability and results measurement in the Norwegian Aid Administration.
Most interesting question you have been asked recently?
‘How do you ‘value’ the benefits that an evaluation is likely to generate, so as to make a more informed judgement about how much to invest in it?’ It’s a really challenging question, but for any institution investing in evaluations, such an important one. Resources for evaluation are finite, so how can we make an informed decision on where best to allocate them? My colleague Julian Barr and I have been grappling for the past 6 months with this question and a report on the answer (with a fair few caveats) will come out very soon. Watch this space.
Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?
There have been a lot, it’s one of the benefits of the job. The most recent one that sticks in my mind was Jinja in Uganda. I was running a training course with my colleague Dane Rogers on evaluation design for Ugandan civil servants. It was the last module from a 6 week course and the participants were great. They were really engaged and were showing real improvement over the course, then on top of that we were in this amazing location overlooking the source of the Nile. I also remember monkeys trying to break into the training room!