Currently viewing the tag: "DME"

The second post for this week, and the last for the Class of 2010, comes from Hana Cervenka who, like Luis Marquez (writer of yesterday’s post) has a focus on monitoring and evaluation.

Hana (2)As I am writing this, I am just back from facilitating the traditional potato run for kids during the celebration of Norway’s national day in Jakarta, Indonesia.  In the next few days I’ll be drafting background documents and talking points in preparation for the bilateral human rights dialogue between Norway and Indonesia, planning a joint Nordic midsummer party, preparing for an upcoming ministerial visit, following up on grants to partners working on good governance, and quite possibly hopping into a few unexpected meetings as well.  This is all part of my job as a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, where I have served since 2013.  I can’t imagine that any school could have prepared me better for this career than The Fletcher School, where writing academic papers, carrying out an evaluation for a real-life organization, discussing the theory and practice of law, economics, and politics, and learning bhangra for one of the Cultural Nights are all equally natural parts of everyday life.  (To be fair, I did not learn bhangra, but many of my friends did!)

It has been a whirlwind five-plus years since I left Fletcher.  First, let me backtrack a bit.  I still remember the feeling I had when studying for my undergraduate degree in international relations at the University of Oslo.  It was part delight and euphoria that the subjects that interested me most — international affairs, conflict, peace, development — were now what I spent all day studying.  At the same time, a part of me was frustrated, questioning whether all these theoretical studies were actually going to be helpful out there in the real world.  That frustration is part of what led me to Fletcher: I was sold the moment I discovered that The Fletcher School was not only top-notch academically, but that it also placed great value on combining theory and practice, and that true interdisciplinary, problem-solving cooperation between scholars and practitioners was part of the School’s DNA.

Fletcher really delivered on all its promises.  My time at Fletcher was a lot about good governance and monitoring and evaluation, with a bunch of gender thrown in.  There were also a few classes which may not have “fit in” with my grand career plan at the time of becoming a development/human rights/governance practitioner, but which I value today because they helped my versatility and understanding of other related issues.

Hana, Presidential Palace (2)The monitoring and evaluation classes I took at Fletcher were particularly important in helping me start my post-Fletcher career.  My summer internship was an M&E internship in Malawi (with an NGO started by a Fletcher alumna!) and right as I graduated, I got a fellowship with DPK Consulting to help develop the monitoring framework for a USAID funded rule of law project in Jordan.  From there, I moved to Khartoum in Sudan (then still one country).  I spent six months as a trainee at the Norwegian Embassy there and loved it so much I pretty much refused to leave.  It was such an interesting time in the country’s history: the south Sudanese people decided in a referendum that South Sudan would become an independent country six months later.  There was no way I could leave.  I was hired by the organization set up under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to work on the negotiations that were ongoing on the terms and practicalities of the secession.  I managed a grant in support of the negotiations, trying to have civil society voices heard and supported in the negotiations (led by the African Union) in any way needed.  Book tickets, charter flights, fix hotels?  Check.  Type up negotiating positions that were hand written?  You got it.  Take minutes from the negotiation meetings?  Sure.

Right around the time South Sudan gained its independence, I was accepted to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic training program.  I continued working on Sudan/South Sudan in my first year at the Ministry as part of my on-the-job training.  I then had a six-month full-time training in all things relating to Norwegian foreign affairs followed by another on-the-job training, this time on the Asia desk in preparation for my first posting in Jakarta.  Fletcher has been helpful every step of the way, academically of course, but in many more ways too.  The Fletcher alumni community is always there, ready for equal parts serious and fun adventures.  We even have a small (and completely unofficial!) Norwegian MFA Fletcher club including (in addition to me), my 2010 classmate Hilde, along with Jonas, F11, Torbjørn, F12, and Ina, F13.  I don’t know where I’ll go for my next posting, but I do know the Fletcher network will surely be there, wherever I may be!

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One could argue that I should run the Five-Year Updates in the year leading up to each class’s five-year reunion.  Yes, I could do that, but for whatever arbitrary reasons, I decided instead to have the alumni write after the completion of a full five years.  Still, what with my asking and them being busy, time does slip by.  So this week, I’m closing the blog book on the Class of 2010, now a full six years post graduation.  The first of the week’s alumni posts comes from Luis Marquez, who wrote to me that, “I hope this five-year update helps show prospective and incoming Fletcherites that the Fletcher Community is truly unique and continues to be a big part of your life years after graduation.”

Luis Marquez PictureSix years ago, having recently graduated from Fletcher, I was fortunate to be connected to the head of the Social Sector Department at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Kei Kawabata, F77, and to Eric Roland, F06, who informed me about a potential opportunity working with the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division.  While I had not been looking for work in the Gender Equality space in particular, it only took a moment of introspection to realize this was exactly the type of work I was looking for post-Fletcher.  At its core, gender equality is about ensuring more effective development and smart economics.  Having focused my studies and thesis on ensuring that development interventions achieved social impact, this was a perfect job for me, and Fletcher had prepared me for it.

The path to Fletcher

Before deciding to study at Fletcher, I was working in New York at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and was unsure about which graduate school to attend.  It took a chance encounter with a Fletcher alum, the late Ben Sklaver, F03, whose passion for the school was so palpable that it was hard to see how there was any other choice (see more about Ben’s story here and about the Clearwater Initiative he founded here).  This passion, I would soon find out, is unique to Fletcher graduates and hard to replicate.  Before our short chance encounter was over, Ben made one simple suggestion: to make sure I took classes that gave me hard skills I could not get from “reading The Economist.”

Post Fletcher: Yes, M&E really is that useful.

I have spent the last six years post-Fletcher promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean through multiple positions at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Currently, I am leading the gender mainstreaming, research, and women’s economic empowerment strategy for the Multilateral Investment Fund, the innovation lab of the IDB Group.  The strategy is focused on finding innovative solutions that can be scaled up through the public and private sectors.  This work ranges from developing market-driven solutions to provide women-led emerging businesses with access to finance to developing a gender equality diagnostic tool that will allow companies to benchmark themselves against their peers, based on the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).  Professor Scharbatke-Church’s monitoring and evaluation course has come in particularly handy when developing gender indicators to ensure our projects contribute towards closing gender gaps.  Professor Wilson’s microfinance course helped me to challenge notions, such as that microcredit was a panacea to help the poor, and to think about developing human-centered products that take into account the needs of the final beneficiaries.

As a Mexican, I am proud to see that my region, as well as the IDB, has made significant advances in closing gender gaps over the last two decades.  However, a lot of work remains.  I am pleased to see how the Fletcher alumni community has developed a niche around the gender equality and development space.  While I am one of few men in the world of gender and development, every day more men are taking note that this is not a women’s issue but rather a development challenge that should matter to all of us, regardless of sex.  Fletcher men like Brian Heilman, F10, and Sebastián Molano, F11, are both relatively recent Fletcher graduates who are working on changing traditional masculinities and gender roles.  We all join a long line of Fletcher graduates (exceptional women like Elizabeth Vasquez, F96, CEO of WeConnect International,  and Anna Lucia Mecagni, F05, of Women for Women International) who are working to ensure men and women are afforded the same opportunities to improve their lives.

Most importantly, I am very proud to be part of the Fletcher community.

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Less than a month remains before graduation in May.  Let’s take a look at the two-year Annotated Curriculum of Aditi, one of our graduating bloggers.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Dasra, Mumbai, India
PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India

Fields of Study
Development Economics
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (self-designed)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Technology for development; monitoring and evaluation

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

I came to Fletcher with an interest in technology for development and in design, monitoring, and evaluation.  I was lucky to start my year off with the Design and Monitoring module, where I not only learned a great deal, but also made some of my closest friends at Fletcher.  I also decided to take some basic quantitative classes such as statistics and quantitative methods in order to help me feel more prepared for classes down the road.  Social Network Analysis and Corporate Social Responsibility were courses I took to try and explore new areas — although I came to Fletcher with a very clear sense of what I wanted to do, I also wanted to make sure that I tried out some new subjects.

Semester Two

After spending winter break with friends in the warmer climes of New Orleans and Austin, I returned early to Fletcher to dive into Evaluation, the second module of the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) course series.  My spring semester was focused on specific skills I knew I wanted to gain before the summer and before second year, so that I would have the option to take courses that I found more challenging.  I took my econometrics class at the Friedman School in downtown Boston since the Fletcher course was over-subscribed, which turned out to be a great experience.  In addition to furthering my knowledge of monitoring and evaluation, I also brushed up on basic research methods and had the chance to learn more about financial inclusion, a topic about which I had heard a lot but never had the chance to formally study.  The semester was also made more challenging by the fact that I was working more hours a week at my campus job than I could realistically handle, but in retrospect, I’m glad I took the opportunity to earn a little extra money for my summer internship!

Summer Internship
Manos de Madres, Kigali, Rwanda

Since I already wrote about my summer internship, I’ll just say a few quick words about how my academics at Fletcher fit into it.  My courses in design, monitoring, and evaluation and financial inclusion really gave me the tools to apply to my work with Manos de Madres — from conducting a Theory of Chance exercise with the team in Kigali, to thinking through how the savings group program could be improved, I found myself falling back on my Fletcher classes time and again.  I also spent some time over the summer conducting research for my Capstone Project.

Semester Three

I returned to Fletcher early once again, this time to be the teaching assistant for the DME course series.  I hadn’t had much of a break or a holiday over the summer, but decided to dive right into my year and challenge myself with my courses.  I had taken so many requirements in the previous year in order to build up to taking a certain set of classes, and I was loath to let any of those go — and so I ended up (very happily) over-extending myself and learning more in one semester than I could ever have imagined.  By the end of the year, I couldn’t believe my newfound comfort with numbers, or the confidence with which I could read and interpret statistics.  Although the course load was incredibly hard, I don’t think I have ever worked harder or been prouder of myself.  On the flip side, I didn’t have quite as much fun enjoying all the other wonderful things that Fletcher has to offer, and so I decided that come spring semester, I would focus on a select few things and aim to do them well, while spending time enjoying the full Fletcher experience.

Semester Four

After a rushed and exciting trip back home to India for a friend’s wedding, I came back early as the teaching assistant for the Evaluation module of the DME series.  In true “senioritis” fashion, I realized I had left some of my requirements to the end of my time at Fletcher, and found two of my credits filled by those courses.  Given that I wanted to focus on my Capstone, I enrolled in an Independent Study with my advisor, Professor Jenny Aker, and then took two half-credit courses in topics that seemed very interesting to me but that I had little knowledge of.  So far, the semester has been a good balance, and I have been careful not to overcommit, to make time for enjoying friends, lectures, and all the other events that Fletcher has to offer.

Of course, I also have to make sure that I find time to apply to jobs and figure out what comes next for me after this wonderful journey — so cross your fingers and hope that my next (and last!) post on this blog as a Fletcher student brings good news!

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I started the week with a post from a student, so why not end the week with a graduate from the Class of 2010.  Let’s hear from Beka Feathers, whose post-Fletcher path include a law degree, as well as a new career.

Before Fletcher

Beka Feathers 1Unlike many Fletcher students, I had no prior international work experience before starting at Fletcher.  After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 2006 with a degree in international affairs, I took a position as a policy adviser for the Oregon State Legislature while applying for the U.S. Foreign Service.  I discovered a deep affinity for the work done by state and local government officials to support the everyday lives of Oregonians and to help them achieve their political and economic aspirations.  I maintained my interest in international affairs, and I saw more and more parallels between my work in Oregon state government and the needs of developing and post-conflict countries, where weak or missing governing institutions contribute to political instability, corruption, poor economic growth, and low standards of living.

Fletcher was my first choice throughout my grad school search.  I was drawn by the high caliber of the students as well as the faculty, and the collaborative atmosphere I observed on a visit.  Additionally, I wanted a practitioner-focused school that would help me meld my domestic government experience with my international career aspirations.

During Fletcher

Many students find that the focus of their studies shifts over the course of their time at Fletcher.  I stayed in the same field, but could not have anticipated how much Fletcher would change the trajectory of my professional interests.  I was lucky to end up in two important classes my very first semester: The Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Societies with Professor Louis Aucoin, and Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming with Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church.  These two classes (and many others) helped me find my true passions: working with post-conflict states to develop representative and transparent systems of government, and developing monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure that international governance interventions are having the effect that we hope they will have.

Professor Aucoin was especially influential to my course trajectory, particularly my decision to attend law school after Fletcher.  I was also fortunate to study with Professor Shultz, who taught me to seek the intersection points between “hard” and “human” security issues.  I can’t condense into a blog post how much I learned from my fellow students, who met and exceeded every one of my pre-Fletcher expectations (including introducing me to bhangra!).  Also critical was my summer work with the National Democratic Institute, where I helped to develop a set of benchmarking standards for evaluating democratic legislatures.

Following Fletcher

Beka Feathers 2After graduating, I moved down to DC for three years of law school.  Through a Fletcher friend, I was connected to the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), where I started working in my second year of law school.  I am still with PILPG today, where I have worked with clients in Burma, Georgia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among others.  I currently manage a program focused on transitional justice in Syria, but I have worked with constitution drafting committees, members of parliament, high-level peace negotiation delegations, civil society coalitions, the UN Human Rights Council, and rebel movements.  I use my Fletcher degree in my job on a daily basis.

The education I received at Fletcher allowed me to jump into my work at PILPG at a level of expertise and confidence that put me years ahead of my peers.  The friends I made at Fletcher, and the broader Fletcher community, remain a constant resource for me as well — they are my go-to experts on anything from the rules of procedure for truth commissions to best practices for post-conflict land reform to where to eat on a last-minute trip to Amman.  Beyond all that, the Fletcher ethos is a core part of my identity as a member of the international development community and continues to shape how I perceive the world and my role in it.

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Let’s close out this week with the next Five Year Update from a 2010 graduate.  Rebecca is one of the growing number of Fletcher-trained M&E professionals out in the world, and here she describes her trajectory from before Fletcher to her post-Fletcher career.

Before Fletcher

After graduating in 2005 from Bates College, where I studied political science, studied abroad in Cape Town, and wrote my honors thesis on the gendered nature of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, I knew I wanted to do something international, but I wasn’t sure exactly what.  I decided to move to Washington, DC and see what opportunities I could find there.  I ended up at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy think tank.  It was a great introduction to the world of international policy.  While at CSIS, I organized high-level membership meetings and special fundraising events.  I got to meet Sandra Day O’Connor and travel to China and I was exposed to the field of policy and decision-making.  I knew I needed to gain practitioner skills, and graduate school seemed like the logical next step.  Fletcher was my first choice — I loved the close-knit community feeling I got when I visited and also that it was outside of the beltway.

At Fletcher

Rebecca speaking to the American Evaluation Association Conference

Rebecca speaking to the American Evaluation Association Conference

At Fletcher, I studied Development Economics and Global Health Policy (a self-designed Field of Study) and graduated with a certificate in Human Security.  During my first semester I signed up for a course on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation.  I had never heard of M&E before and didn’t realize it would have such an impact on my career.  As I went through the course that semester, something clicked.  I loved the idea of using my analytical skills to help development practitioners learn from and improve the work they were doing.  During the summer, I traveled to Malawi with three other Fletcher students and designed an M&E framework for a girls’ education organization.  For my thesis, I worked with a small global health organization to design an M&E strategy for the organization’s programming.  I believe that the combination of education and practical skills in M&E I gained at Fletcher enabled me to get my foot in the door at Oxfam America after I graduated.

After Fletcher

I started at the headquarters of Oxfam America in Boston as an intern — I tell every Fletcher student who contacts me for career advice that it’s OK to take an internship after graduating.  It’s a great way to test out an organization and you get opportunities that you would not have as someone external to the organization.  My internship ultimately turned into a consultancy, which turned into a full-time position.  I worked for almost four and a half years in Oxfam’s Campaigns Department, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of policy advocacy monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL).  I worked with a variety of campaign teams based in the U.S., supporting them on all things MEL, including developing MEL plans, collecting data, facilitating debriefs and writing evaluation reports.  In my last year in the department, I provided campaign MEL support to country teams and led trainings in Nepal and Spain.

My experience in policy advocacy MEL, combined with the program M&E skills I acquired at Fletcher, enabled me to transition to Oxfam’s Regional Programs Department, where I am the MEL Project Officer for domestic programs.  I provide technical MEL support and make sure the different programs are effectively monitoring, reporting on, and learning from their work.  After working in the international field for almost a decade, it has been rewarding to support programming in my home country.  I could not have predicted this career when I first set foot in the Hall of Flags in 2008, but my two years at Fletcher had a profound impact on where I am now, and I am all the better for it.

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Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation is a field that has grown dramatically at Fletcher in recent years.  Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church kindly offered this run-down on a conference she attended recently that served as a Fletcher reunion.

A highlight of my professional calendar is the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference.  As the preeminent professional event for the global evaluation community, this 4000+ attendee conference shows the innovation, diversity, and scale of the profession.  In addition to the professional development opportunities, the event is a highlight because of the opportunity to reconnect with the Fletcher Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) community through the annual Fletcher lunch.  Learning what former students are doing, along with their challenges and accomplishments, is always a rewarding experience.

This year, an extraordinary 29 Fletcher alumni and students attended the AEA conference in Chicago.  A few fun facts:

  • Two alumni flew from Turkey where they work in humanitarian M&E.
  • One alumna was from my very first year of teaching at Fletcher (nine years ago).
  • Twenty-six attended the Fletcher lunch, of whom only one was male.  (He took the picture below!)
  • One alumna is the head of an AEA Topical Interest Group.
  • Approximately six alumni did presentations, and some did more than one.
  • Approximately five alumni work for funders.
  • Seven current students attended, of whom one was a first-year student.
  • One recent graduate returned to Rwanda to continue her role in development M&E.
  • At least nine nationalities were represented.

AEA Crew1

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Returning once more, probably for the last time in the First-Year Alumni feature, to the Class of 2014, we meet Christina Brown, for whom study at Fletcher was one step in a multi-step career transition.

LahoreThree years ago, I was packing up my classroom after finishing another year of teaching physics, and now I am a few weeks away from beginning a PhD program in economics.  The last three years have been a wonderful period of change and self-discovery, and at Fletcher cases like mine are not unique.  I am one of many classmates who used Fletcher for a career transition — a place to both discover what it is you want to do and then gain the skills to make that career path possible.

Prior to Fletcher, I taught high school in a low-income community outside Boston through Teach for America and in a rural village in Tanzania through One Heart Source, a health and education NGO.  While I loved teaching, my enjoyment was tempered with frustration over the tremendous systemic problems constraining the education market, especially in developing countries.

I wanted to work in the development sector, but I did not know how to break into the field, or for that matter, where.  Did I want to be a program manager?  Evaluator?  Sectoral specialist?  I wasn’t sure where my skills and interests would be a good match.  I chose to attend Fletcher because I wanted the flexibility to explore development from different perspectives, to see where I would fit best.

Coursework in my first year in program evaluation and in development economics helped to solidify my interests, allowing me to gain useful skills for the development sector.  Prof. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church’s series of monitoring and evaluation courses were particularly useful.  Her approach to evaluation is exceptionally rigorous, and with many of the alumni of her courses now in leadership positions within evaluation departments, her high aspiration for the evaluation field is seeping into many organizations.  This group of former students stays in contact, growing year by year, through an email listserve and yearly gatherings at the American Evaluation Association Conference.

However, it was Prof. Jenny Aker’s coursework that ultimately led me to the path I am currently on.  Like many members of the Fletcher faculty, Prof. Aker has many years of experience as a practitioner, working in West Africa, before returning to academia.  And it showed in every lecture she taught.  Her research was fascinating and thoroughly informed by her work in the field.  There are many opportunities to work closely with professors whose work you are interested in, and I was lucky to serve as both a teaching assistant and research assistant for Prof. Aker.

At heart I am a math nerd, looking for an analytic approach to solve problems.  Fletcher showed me that I could still care about the issues I was interested in — poverty, education, inequality — while approaching them from a quantitative angle.  Seeing academics like Prof. Aker and others who were doing policy-relevant research and were at the forefront of the issues in their field, showed me an academic career need not be divorced from the issues on the ground.  Towards the end of my first year I decided I wanted to do a PhD in economics and become a researcher.  Rather than a light bulb going off, it was a slow, profound realization that this was what I wanted to do with my life.  Luckily, due to Fletcher’s flexibility in coursework and ties to Boston-area schools, I was able to pivot in my second year and take two PhD-level courses at the Harvard School of Public Health and one at the Harvard Kennedy School.

At Fletcher, students are required to do a capstone project, which can take the form of the deliverable that is most useful for the student’s professional development.  I choose to write a paper similar to an economics journal article, as it allowed me to see the research process from start to finish.  I used an econometric strategy I learned during my first year to investigate the impact of an early grade literacy program in Indonesia.  I found the program only had an effect for higher performing students and that this heterogeneity stemmed from differences in the time cost of participation in the program.  These findings were used to inform the program scale-up.  This experience deepened my love of the research process, and the tangible outcomes it produced.

A week after graduation, I began as a Research Fellow at Evidence for Policy Design, the microeconomic division of Harvard’s Center for International Development.  I oversee the implementation, data collection, and analysis for two randomized controlled trials in Pakistan, working closely with our field team and six principal investigators across several universities.  The job was a perfect fit, building off the RA skills I had gained working with Prof. Aker, and, of course, I heard about the job through a fellow Fletcher student.

Throughout the fall I applied to economics PhD programs and, again, Fletcher professors came through to offer advice and support.  I am thrilled to be attending UC Berkeley, which has one of the best programs in the world for development economics, this fall.  I truly would not be here if not for the mentorship I received from Fletcher faculty, opportunities I heard about through Fletcher alumni, and friendship of fellow Fletcher students.

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Continuing the internship theme from Tuesday, Aditi reports on her internship and other plans for the coming months.

Summer has finally arrived in Boston!  After a grueling couple of weeks for finals, I’m done and can enjoy the beautiful weather for a little before I leave for my summer internship.

This summer, I will be working with a small NGO in Kigali, Rwanda, on their monitoring and evaluation plans.  Another Fletcher student worked with the same NGO last summer, and was responsible for hiring me and training me; she was an incredibly useful resource for learning more about the organization and its work, her experience working with them, and Kigali generally.  I’m really excited to be in Rwanda — it will be my first time in Africa! — and I’m lucky enough that I will have the company of five other Fletcher students who will also be doing internships there.

I was fortunate to receive funding from Fletcher, through the Office of Career Services, to support my work over the summer.  My research partner and I also received a grant from the Hitachi Center (which I wrote about earlier) to conduct research for our capstones, which we will write next year.  The research will lead me to Nairobi, Kenya for a week after wrapping up my summer internship.  And once that’s done, after heading home to India for a week, I’ll be back on campus in mid-August as the teaching assistant for the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) series taught by Prof. Scharbatke-Church.

What I’m most excited about for the summer (in addition to beautiful Kigali and exploring a new country) is the chance to put my DME coursework to use through my internship.  Looking back to August 2014, I’m so glad I took the pre-session course and went through the series all the way through Advanced Evaluation this semester, because it gave me new tools with which to think critically about development and the underlying logic behind it.  It’s an excellent class for anyone who has worked, or wants to work, in development or peacebuilding.  In addition to giving you a set of in-demand skills (because, jobs), it also helps you understand how much higher the bar should be for good development work that can create change, and what steps we can take to reach that bar.  It’s an incredibly challenging course that makes you question your assumptions, but the hard work and heavy reading load is completely worth it.  If it interests you, definitely consider taking it.

In the meantime — have a wonderful summer, and I’m looking forward to meeting all of you who are new students come August!

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Yesterday, the Faculty Spotlight shone on Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who teaches the series of classes on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME or DM&E).  As Prof. Scharbatke-Church mentioned, she frequently runs into alumni in her travels and work.  I’m delighted that she has shared with me brief introductions to some of those Fletcher graduates who took one or more of her classes.  She developed these introductions to help students understand whether the classes are right for them.  As currently configured, the classes are Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.  For blog readers, there is additional value in noting the careers in which DME concepts can be applied.

Lisa InksLisa Inks F10
Current Position/Organization: Director of Conflict Management Programs, Mercy Corps Nigeria.  I oversee Mercy Corps’ conflict management division in Nigeria, composed of various donor-funded programs integrating peacebuilding, economic development, and governance.  I am responsible for setting our conflict management strategy, ensuring the programs’ success against our objectives, and leading research and M&E initiatives.

Professional interests and passions: Integrated peacebuilding and economic development programming; research on conflict/poverty linkages; governance and peacebuilding; monitoring, evaluation, and learning of conflict mitigation programs.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: This will be your chance to soak up theory.  After Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s classes you will never feel like you have enough time to absorb the great wisdom of the M&E giants.  Read every word and reflect on what you think your personal approach to DME is, and how you see this playing into your work.  If you go into the rest of your career with a clear understanding of how you see yourself in the DME world and what your ideals are, you’ll be more effective.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: What I learned in that class was more than a collection of tools, strategies, and facts: I adopted a completely new mindset for how to implement development and peacebuilding programs.  Constant iteration is absolutely necessary for programming effectiveness.  The way Prof. Scharbatke-Church modeled continuous learning and improvement is the way we should all run our programs.  I think about that often: how I need to stop, evaluate, and reflect after each step of an activity — and always get the direct input of participants.  (This seems obvious, but it wasn’t until I took the class that I truly internalized the importance of direct feedback and closing the feedback loop.)  Also, through the class, I learned how to think logically and precisely to develop a program with a clear and testable theory of change and to monitor its effectiveness.  A year after graduating I was training people throughout my previous organization in how to develop DME systems.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: If you plan to work in development at all, take this course.  This class should be a “must” for anyone who wants to work in an NGO or for a donor.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church’s class is rigorous, challenging, and humbling, but if you are serious about development — and are serious about doing high-quality development work that responds to the needs of those you are trying to serve, and that is based on evidence and learning — you should take it.

Brian Heilman F10

Brian HeilmanCurrent Position/Organization: Independent M&E Consultant. Prior: Gender and Evaluation Specialist, International Center for Research on Women (2010-2015).

Professional interests and passions: Gender equality; prevention of all forms of violence against women; engaging men and boys in efforts to advance gender quality; utilization-focused evaluation; quantitative data analysis and visualization.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: Honestly, the professional value of these courses is about triple that of the average Fletcher course…with a workload to match!  Also, despite the modules’ titles — and I suppose not all incoming first years are immediately familiar with DM&E concepts — these courses were the most fertile ground at Fletcher for deep discussion and analysis on the ethics and effectiveness of international development and peacebuilding programming.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: These courses taught me:

  • To demand clarity and logic from international development program designs — but not by sacrificing imagination.
  • To demand and uncover evidence of these programs’ relevance, effectiveness, and/or sustainability prior to large-scale investment — but not by allegiance to methodological “rigor” as narrowly understood.
  • To demand that we value usefulness over interestingness in the application of precious program, evaluation and research resources.

These and other insights from the courses — as well as from Professor Scharbatke-Church’s broader mentorship and support — helped me come into my own as a professional evaluator, a career path that honestly I hadn’t imagined for myself prior to attending Fletcher.  I have now collaborated on and led a range of evaluations and M&E collaborations in diverse settings, from the Pacific Islands to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, and I apply principles from these courses throughout.  I am still so grateful that I took a chance on the first DME course in my first semester — it changed everything!

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series:  These courses are fantastic for the Fletcher student with broad interests in international development practice.  If you’re like I was, you’ve got some constellation of interests including: human rights, grassroots programming/activism, data collection and analysis, development/foreign aid policy, and/or others.  You can take many classes at Fletcher that dig into these areas individually but that conveniently ignore the implications of the others — especially the crucial question of how best to ensure that your program/practice/policy continues to learn from itself and improve over time.

These courses bring all of those topics together, but perhaps more importantly, they do so while also taking the notion of the “professional degree” very seriously.  They are designed and taught very thoughtfully as preparatory courses for professionals.  The projects and work you undertake mirror the projects and work you will undertake after graduating:  Teamwork. Project designs and proposals. M&E plans. Data collection guides.

Jessie EvansJessie Evans F10

Current Position/Organization: Conflict Stabilization Specialist, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, U.S. State Department.

I support broader State Department and interagency efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy by applying conflict expertise and supporting embassies in countries and regions affected by conflict.  I design and implement conflict prevention and stabilization programs and advise on U.S. government policy.  I am expected to quickly gain familiarity with specific conflict-impacted countries to identify gaps where my Bureau’s tools, including strategic planning, conflict assessment, financial assistance, and deployable staff, can enable the U.S. government to develop better policy and programs leading to improved outcomes.  I’ve served in Afghanistan, Burma, and Bangladesh.

Professional interests and passions: Countries transitioning from conflict to peace, conflict prevention, reconciliation mechanisms, trust-building, civil-military relations, gender.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: I wish I had known the DM&E classes I took at Fletcher would be by far the most practical, relevant courses I would take in graduate school.  I also wish I knew more M&E vocabulary before starting the course.  I had only been in the workforce for a few years before Fletcher, with limited program design experience, so much of the lingo was new to me.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: I am more strategic, always asking myself what changes I would need to see, in individuals and societies I work in, to determine whether the money, time, and effort we spent was “worth it.”  The course also taught me the importance of going beyond calling an intervention a success solely because it met its originally stated objectives and goal.  I learned to ask the even tougher question, like … was it the right intervention in the first place?  Did it have the intended outcomes and do those outcomes amount to something greater, a larger impact?  Could it have been done more efficiently?  Will it be sustainable?  I just wrote an evaluation scope of work for one of our projects and I relied heavily on what I learned in DM&E class – looking back at course material as I drafted it!

Jennifer Catalano F11

Jennifer CatalanoCurrent Position/Organization: Director, Youth Economic Participation Initiative at the Talloires Network (Tufts University).

I oversee a 4.5-year demonstration grant program at the Talloires Network, an international association of universities committed to civic engagement.  This program provides sub-grants to eight universities in the global south in order to expand and learn from their efforts to prepare students for entrepreneurship and employment.  Additional program elements include a learning partnership with the University of Minnesota and a global community of practice around the topic of higher education and youth employment/entrepreneurship.

Professional interests and passions: Gender, youth, ethics, the aid system, higher education.

Things I wish I knew before taking the courses: It’s rather intense, and has a significant workload, but I had heard that through the grapevine.  Actually the intensity set me up well for the rest of grad school.

Most valuable takeaways, and how these have helped in your career: So many things…I drew on Program Design skills during the first phase of my post-Fletcher work, which involved coordinating the process of designing the program I now work for.

The M&E knowledge has been extraordinarily helpful during the past year.  The program I work on includes a significant multi-year monitoring/learning effort.  My M&E studies helped with the process of selecting an evaluation team and working with them to set up the collaboration.  The whole process would have been daunting if I hadn’t known how to create a TOR, the right language to use, what to look for in evaluators, etc.  Knowing this process so well also helped me to advocate for decisions that were in line with my values.

Now as we move into a phase of active collaboration with our learning partners, my M&E skills enable me to contribute in a far more substantive and meaningful way to the process.

Other comments for incoming students who are considering the course series: This is one of the most practical and useful courses you could take at Fletcher if you intend to work anywhere in the aid chain. I highly recommend it.

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Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, lecturer in Human Security.  Prof. Scharbatke-Church teaches a series of intensive short-term classes, including Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.

Cheyanne ChurchColleagues sometimes ask me why I stopped working in peacebuilding to be an evaluator.  I respond by asking: how is determining the dynamics of a conflict and its actors, and the ability of an intervention to catalyze change, anything but peacebuilding?  Understanding how change happens in complex conflict and fragile affected states, be it on issues related to corruption, rule of law, or conflict, has been the focus of my career as a practitioner-scholar.  In my opinion, this is the crux of all forms of international development and peacebuilding.

As a practitioner-scholar I purposefully straddle the theory and practice communities.  The issues, challenges, or questions I identify on the ground when working with partners such as the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), or the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) directly feed my research and, by extension, my teaching.  Real cases are always part of class discussions to bring to light the complexity of issues.  In addition, through my organization Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, students have the opportunity to engage in projects that are committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues.

Equally, my academic work influences my practice as it enables me to not only stay current, but to critically assess the potential value of theory against real challenges.  For instance, I am leading a project, funded by the Department of State, that seeks to operationalize new approaches to corruption in the justice sector in conflict affected states.  The impetus for the project came from teaching a course on Corruption and Conflict where it was clear that the proposed solutions in academia were not bounded by the practical realities of the contexts in which these responses need to be implemented.

The courses that I teach at the School are unique in a number of ways, primarily because they emphasize skills development and are offered in a three-part series taught in an intensive format.  Working daily with students who are exclusively committed to the course creates a unique classroom experience characterized by camaraderie and a dedication to understanding how and why change happens.  This camaraderie and engagement often lead to long-term relationships with students.

As a result I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with and learn from the alumni of my classes.  Fletcher alumni now include a growing cadre of professionals who call the discipline of evaluation their profession.  At the 2013 American Evaluation Association conference, over 30 alumni were in attendance in their professional capacity.  They are found working throughout implementing actors and donors in the international community.  I am proud to say they are advancing the practice of evaluation, from which the School in turn benefits, as they act as guest speakers, offer topics for capstones, and establish internships.

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