European Evaluation Society (EES) Global Conference Article, 2018
By Dr. Diliah Mutambara, PhD (Zimbabwe)
The European Evaluation Society (EES) held the 13th global biennial conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, from 1 – 5 October 2018, with the overall theme of “Evaluation for more resilient societies”. It was an informative and instructional platform where knowledge, experiences, and ideas were shared and debated by international evaluation professionals. In addition, the platform promoted emerging theories, bridging theory and practice, and enhancing the utilization of high-quality approaches and dynamic tools in evaluation. The conference speakers as well as the attendees came from 76 different countries. These included of highly distinguished consultants, scholars, private sector, influential government representatives, civil society and academia representatives, among others. The EES organized the conference in collaboration with the Hellenic Evaluation Society in Thessaloniki and the program was richly inclusive of the flagship symposia, full paper sessions, professional development workshops, poster sessions, keynote lectures, social programs as well as several other side events.
It was a privilege to be amongst the conference speakers, presenting a paper titled, “Evaluation Challenges and Opportunities within Private Sector Corporate Workplace Sustainability Programming: Integration of SDG 8 of Economic Growth and Decent Work”. Due to the bewildering changes brought by the 4th industrial revolution, the world is changing in complex and ambiguous ways, which affects the way humanity lives, interacts and works. With this backdrop, the presentation shared some practical strategies with which to possibly deal with the challenges, drawing on my PhD in Social Sustainability journey, which I recently completed. The presentation was also based on my career practical experiences, which encompass development evaluation, sustainability & compliance, development strategies, program & project management and training. I presented the following possible strategies which may assist in solve the challenges:
Application of appropriate evaluation design based on the evaluation purpose through integration of ontological and epistemological paradigms. In addition the question “Why” which is the evaluation purpose should be clear by demarcating corporate social and environmental system boundaries.
Application of Meta-Evaluation which is an “evaluation of an evaluation” (Stufflebeam, 2011). This approach was further suggested that the quality and reliability of evaluation should be audited through meta-evaluation in the same way as financial performance is audited.
Integration of systems thinking approach as well as systemic evaluation methodologies through alignment of corporate key performance indicators with societal indicators to capture systemic effects of business operation on the society.
Enhancing or creation of an enabling environment inclusive of innovation pillar for program evaluation processes through technology integration, matching of team capacities, enhancement of evaluation capacities, forging of evaluation expert partnerships with a clear evaluation results dissemination structure inclusive of decision makers.
Utilisation of information to enhance use of evaluative evidence in decision-making, documentation and dissemination of good practices.
Evaluation for more resilient societies in this 21st century remains a vital topic due to global turbulence given the current socio-economic and geopolitical dynamics. As turbulence is the new normality, all evaluation professionals within the globe should step up their game and influence the use of evaluative evidence in decision making. On top of that, the EES President, Bastiaan de Laat shared the motto of the city of Thessaloniki, Many stories, one heart, which was translated into evaluation sense. This was further highlighted that there are a lot of stories within the evaluation arena, however the aim of it is to build resilient societies in today’s complex world of diverse crisis.
In conclusion, evaluation needs a paradigm shift from the traditional way (in some instances merely a tick a box exercise), towards going hand in hand with the daily turbulence and thus contribute to supporting societies to become more resilient. The fact is that in these times of post-normal evaluation, turbulence and complexity are the new standards. Additionally, societal facts are uncertain, and governance as well as decision making are required urgently for transformational innovative change so as to tackle the unimagined possibilities. Critical thinking approaches were adopted in the majority of sessionswhere evaluation was debated as the pillar to help overcoming today’s crisis among societies in Europe and beyond.