Getting off on the right foot - 10 lessons from the journey of EvalYouth Pakistan

By Nazir Ul Haq

Founding co-chair, EvalYouth Pakistan



This blog is part of the Eval4Action ‘Walk the Talk’ blog series. The series details six nominated actions for influential evaluation that were contributed during the Walk the Talk drive, held in October 2021. These lessons and reflections inspire greater action for influential evaluation in the Decade of Action.

 

On 23 March 2022, EvalYouth Pakistan marked its first anniversary with an event celebrating youth in evaluation in Pakistan. The event highlighted the experiences and learnings of Young and Emerging Evaluators (YEEs) from across Pakistan while conducting culturally responsive evaluations in indigenous and local communities. The event received great appreciation from participants who came from different parts of the world. The event also signified and encompassed the core values and guiding principles that EvalYouth Pakistan has set for itself in its strategy including diversity and inclusion, participation, equity, and innovation.



As a founding co-chair of EvalYouth Pakistan, I am writing this reflective piece to highlight some of the good practices that worked for us and the important lessons that we learned along the way.


1. Finding your eval mates: While planning to establish a new EvalYouth national or regional chapter, you have to find people who share the same passion and are willing to join hands. But it is not always easy. When we set out, we learned from the IOCE’s website that there is a national VOPE in Pakistan, Pakistan Evaluation Association (PEA). We reached out to the president of PEA and as expected, we received wonderful support and encouragement and got linked with the young members of PEA. We also reached out to a group of young evaluators through the EvalYouth Asia regional chapter who immediately agreed to join hands for the initiative. And soon we were able to form a team of committed young evaluators who dedicated their time and energies and spearheaded the establishment of EvalYouth Pakistan.


2. Capitalizing on existing resources, knowledge and experiences: When we were planning for EvalYouth Pakistan, EvalYouth chapters in Afghanistan and India had just been launched with the support of EvalYouth Asia. The regional chapter had also documented the process that was followed in establishing the new chapters in the region. EvalYouth Asia not only made those important documents available to us, but its co-leaders also shared their experiences and lessons in establishing the new chapters in their own countries. This knowledge turned out to be invaluable for us as we established EvalYouth Pakistan.


3. Socializing the initiative: Although a lot of work is being done by EvalYouth Global Network, and the different regional and national chapters, the idea of EvalYouth national chapters is still not well known in many developing countries. So when starting out, it is essential to explain it well to get your eval mates as well as potential supporters on board. Realizing this important need, we had developed a brief concept note explaining the main objectives of establishing the EvalYouth chapter in Pakistan, what to expect from it and how it will work. While developing the concept note, we took guidance from EvalYouth Global background document. With the concept note shared widely in our networks, we were able to get onboard truly interested and passionate YEEs who have become an integral part of the chapter.


4. Make the launch big: Based on our experience we learned that a proper launch is a big advocacy opportunity. We organized a virtual launch event supported by PEA, with participation of some of the bigwigs in the field of evaluation from across the globe and key public and private sector stakeholders in Pakistan. The event was streamed live on our social media pages and was published in a prominent newspaper as well, attracting a sizable audience and spreading awareness about the initiative.


5. Developing a shared purpose: The new chapter usually attracts young and interested people who are looking for a reliable professional community and a meaningful platform for learning, networking, and exchange. They also come with some expectations. Therefore, it is essential to develop a shared purpose based on their needs and expectations and by considering what the chapter can deliver as a voluntary professional network. Before our official launch, we developed a strategy document in consultation with YEEs and PEA, and based on the review of the EvalYouth Global Strategy. The strategy highlights the shared purpose of EvalYouth Pakistan including its vision, mission, strategic goals, and key action areas. This also serves to drive the commitment of its members.

Diversity and inclusion are key to the success of the new chapter, just as for any other initiative. There should be intentional efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion in the chapter’s governance, management as well as in its outreach efforts.

6. Diversity and inclusivity: Diversity and inclusion are key to the success of the new chapter, just as for any other initiative. There should be intentional efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion in the chapter’s governance, management as well as in its outreach efforts. Considering the diversity of the population in Pakistan, EvalYouth Pakistan’s governance and management strategy has been structured in a way that ensures YEEs belonging to each province have a seat in the Management Group. The chapter’s Executive Committee consists of one male and one female co-chair who are selected through self-nomination, then shortlisted by an independent committee and virtual voting, facilitated by PEA. Task forces have been developed by EvalYouth Pakistan around its four key action areas on capacity strengthening, engagement, networking, and institutional strengthening. The leadership of the task forces was determined through self-nominations, ensuring equal representation for each gender. The increased diversity and inclusion within EvalYouth Pakistan has ensured equitable representation and also contributed to more creative thinking within the chapter.


7. Promoting accessibility: Being a member of an EvalYouth chapter provides opportunities for learning, engagement, and networking. The EvalYouth chapters are also recognized as representatives’ bodies of YEEs by some of the key players in evaluation. In our first year, several of our members were able to avail scholarship opportunities to attend training by Encompass Learning Center and the Asia Pacific Winter School. Members also received bursaries to attend the Asia Pacific Evaluation Association (APEA) conferences and Evalfest. Several members were also invited to facilitate and moderate sessions in P2p+ Career Advisory and webinars organized by the Sri Lankan Evaluation Association (SLEVA) and APEA. To ensure that more YEEs get access to such opportunities, membership to the EvalYouth chapter should be widely promoted. For this purpose, EvalYouth Pakistan has a dedicated Task Force responsible for expanding the network and engaging those who join the chapter.


Although it was a bit tough to find partners during the initial months, eventually partnerships did form, as EvalYouth Chapters offer such a huge potential for promoting evaluation.

8. Developing partnerships: Building partnerships with relevant organizations helps to achieve strategic objectives of the chapter. EvalYouth chapters in different regions and countries have been able to develop partnerships with different organizations and enjoy their institutional support including with UN agencies. EvalYouth Pakistan has developed a partnership strategy outlining the key priorities for partnerships and has identified potential partners. Although it was a bit tough to find partners during the initial months, eventually partnerships did form, as EvalYouth Chapters offer such a huge potential for promoting evaluation. EvalYouth Pakistan officially welcomed UNICEF Pakistan as its first partner two weeks before its first anniversary.


9. Fostering networking: Networking is of great value to a new EvalYouth Chapter. We have been encouraging our members to participate in various evaluation networks and initiatives in the region and across the globe. EvalYouth Pakistan’s members serve in EvalYouth Global, EvalYouth Asia, EVALSDGs network, APEA, and P2p+ Career Advisory Initiative. EvalYouth Pakistan’s members serve as volunteers, organizers, moderators, and facilitators in events and activities organized by other EvalYouth chapters and VOPEs. Based on these engagements and networks, they gain experience and bring their learning back to EvalYouth Pakistan which has proved to be valuable for us.


With the new chapter, we have to be patient and focus our energies because the first year of the EvalYouth Chapter is usually the year of giving!

10. From shared purpose to shared responsibility: Working for EvalYouth Pakistan so far and serving as its first co-chair has been truly rewarding for me. I have learned a lot, met some amazing people, and made great friends. But I have also found it a bit challenging at times to balance my role as a co-chair together with my job, personal life, and other voluntary work.


With the new chapter, we have to be patient and focus our energies because the first year of the EvalYouth Chapter is usually the year of giving! A few committed young people have to keep it running while developing a strong foundation for its continuity and sustainability. With a strong foundation in place, there should be intentional efforts to empower more leaders by delegating responsibilities, and by engaging more volunteers. I believe that in the first year of EvalYouth Pakistan, we have been able to create a shared purpose within the network and have set a strong foundation with a well-defined structure, roles and responsibilities, and a strategic framework. From now onwards, our focus will be on fostering shared responsibility.


 

Nazir Ul Haq is an experienced planning, monitoring, evaluation, and learning (PMEL) professional with around eight years of diverse experience working in Pakistan and in Southeast Asia. As a PMEL expert, Nazir has worked on various development themes including health equity, humanitarian assistance, economic development, governance, regional cooperation, agricultural development, and education. He is co-chair of EvalYouth Pakistan, a co-leader in EvalYouth Asia, and a member of the Pakistan Evaluation Association, Asia Pacific Evaluation Association and EVALSDGs group. Follow Nazir on Twitter and contact him via nhaqcl@gmail.com.