#EES2018 Bursary Recipients - Reflections

European Evaluation Society Biannual conference – is it worth to participate?

By Olha Krasovska (Ukraine)

Sometimes it is better to make a decision having less information. Sounds strange? Maybe, but here I’m talking about my personal experience of participation in the European Evaluation Society Biannual conference in Thessaloniki. 

The first time I heard about the conference was from my colleagues in the Ukrainian Evaluation Association, which I joined in 2015. I knew that my more experienced colleagues had attended the conferences in different countries, but for me, as a relatively new evaluator, it seemed almost unreal, but still very desirable.

When I received the information about the EES2018, I started to look for any opportunity to participate. First, I would like to mention that the conference secretariat was prompt and diligent in providing information support. The EES secretariat provided me all important information in advance, and I was happy to learn about the existence of a Bursary programme.

The Bursary programme, providing support to citizens from developing countries involved in evaluation in their home countries, looked like an ideal option for me. I could not imagine that competition was so high.  There were 200 applications for 10 bursary grants. If I had known this in advance, I would never have applied! That is why I said earlier that, sometimes, the right decisions come when you have less information. However, this is just meant as an anecdote, so, please, do not use this principle during your evaluation assignments.

I would like to stress that the application procedure for the Bursary programme is easy and even emerging evaluator can participate in the programme. Providing evidence for your involvement in evaluation in your home country could be a little bit challenging, if your evaluation reports are confidential and you cannot share them (it was my case).  I must say that the evaluation committee of the Bursary programme was quite flexible. Recommendation letter from my partners with whom I conducted the majority of my evaluations in Ukraine worked well.

My abstract and further paper was dedicated to the topic of ensuring gender balance in EU assistance to Ukraine – not the easiest, but a relevant and contemporary topic. I enjoyed working on this topic, as I understood that I would be able to use this research not only as a conference presentation but also for further promotion of gender sensitive evaluations in Ukraine, where gender stereotypes are still very strong. I managed to submit my abstract and all necessary documents in time. Here I also want to stress the user-friendly web-page of the conference and possibility to apply electronically.

I was really happy to know that I was selected as one of the winners of the Bursary programme! The possibility of participating not only in the conference but also in the pre-conference workshops was really a perfect added value of the programme. I received outstanding support from the EES2018 team while preparing for the conference and received quick and comprehensive answers to all my requests.

The only disadvantage of the EES2018 I can mention is a big number of extremely interesting and valuable events held in parallel. Choosing between “Dealing with complexity in development evaluation”, “The basics of using theory to improve evaluation practice” and “Mixing methods for evaluation quality and result” and many other workshops was very difficult for me. I chose the workshop “Dealing with complexity in development evaluation”, influenced a lot by the personality of Michael Bamberger, who was the leader of the workshop. I must admit that it was the right choice. I was impressed by all the preparatory work done by Michael Bamberger and Estelle Raimondo. All participants got case studies and questions to be discussed during the workshop in advance. And, of course, the workshop was conducted with an extremely high level of professionalism.

Only participating in the workshops had already made the EES2018 worth to attend, but the main conference was still ahead.

The conference exceeded all my expectations! Perfect technical organization, outstanding speakers, informative and practical-oriented presentations, and an awesome social programme provided perfect opportunities for networking and future cooperation. Overall, it made the EES2018 conference unforgettable!  Even despite the difficult choice between parallel sessions.

Unfortunately, the session ‘Large-Scale Policy Evaluation’, where I had to make my presentation, was not crowded by participants (of course, not so many people are ready to attend a conference at AM 8.45 after the Gala Dinner);nevertheless we managed to discuss ensuring gender balance in the evaluation of EU assistance to Ukraine and the Role of the Evaluation Agency for the Indonesian Government’s Policy on Water Access - different topics that provided evidence of large-Scale Policy Evaluation.

Finally, one of the most exiting meetings during the conference was the informal gathering of bursary participants with the EES President Mr. Bastiaan de Laat.

 I was impressed by the President’s personality and his personal commitment towards development of evaluation culture in Europe. We discussed possible ways of promoting evaluation in developing countries, including launching the Bursary Programme Alumni club. All bursary alumni made their own commitments on promoting evaluation in their countries, and I personally have already contributed in their achievement.

We discussed the conference’s takeaway messages during regular meeting of the Ukrainian Evaluation Association, where I made my presentation on gender evaluations. After this, I was invited to give a lecture on gender sensitive evaluation for Master Students in Sociology at the Kiev National University. These students are potential evaluators and I would be happy to promote evaluation among young and inspired people.

In addition, the Bursary programme provides a two-years membership in the EES that gives me many opportunities in my evaluation carrier, which is extremely important for me.

Was European Evaluation Society Biannual conference worth participating in? My answer is a resounding ‘yes’ and I highly recommend it to all evaluators.

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