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The role of EvalYouth in shaping evaluation governance: overcoming challenges

By Miriam Ordoñez

EvalYouth LAC



Summary

When faced with the complexity of evaluating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, governance is the best way to mobilize the participation, resources, and knowledge of multiple stakeholders. EvalYouth chapters bring together young and emerging evaluators (YEEs) to promote their own professional development. As such, through their voluntary action, they have a more relevant role than is commonly recognized in shaping the governance of the evaluation ecosystem. However, encouraging the participation and self-organization of YEEs is a goal that should not be underestimated, as it entails multiple challenges. Understanding the personal motivations of YEEs is key to this end, but so is a democratic context that promotes their participation.



In 2017, I joined a voluntary organization of professional evaluators (VOPEs) for the first time. I was just starting out in the evaluation field and hoping to make connections with the evaluation community in Mexico. Almost immediately after I became a member of the VOPE, the organization’s leaders decided to manage the volunteer work around various thematic initiatives, including EvalYouth. Together with other young evaluators who, like me, were interested in strengthening our capacities, we founded EvalYouthMx [1].


A couple of years later I found myself leading the EvalYouthLAC initiative, and now it is clear to me that VOPEs and initiatives are part of a far-reaching institutional and normative architecture. Instigated by the designation of 2015 as the ‘Year of Evaluation’, and the setting of the first Global Evaluation Agenda to raise the voices of evaluators in the same year, participation in evaluation and the use of evaluation results to identify key focus areas to achieve the desired goals has been growing in prominence within this architecture.


The Global Evaluation Agenda promotes a positive enabling environment for evaluation and evidence-based policymaking advocacy. This means collective action among multiple governmental and non-governmental actors to promote a culture of collaboration; influence the creation of sound policies and the allocation of public resources; strengthen monitoring and evaluation systems; innovate new approaches and methodologies; and insist on the professionalization of evaluators. This is why evaluating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is, above all, about governance.


Governance can be understood as both a means and an end (Monkelbann, 2019). An end, because countries are primarily responsible for achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and it is essential that they make progress in strengthening the capacities of their institutions to ensure accountability and transparency, and in forging participatory societies that demand accountability for development results through evaluation.


Faced with the complexity of achieving sustainable development, all forms of collaboration count, and voluntary work carried out by EvalYouth chapters has a relevant role in increasing the involvement of youth in the promotion of evaluation.

Additionally, governance demands the revitalization of multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development (SDG 17). According to the 2030 Agenda, these partnerships should share knowledge, resources, and innovations for the achievement of the SDGs. Faced with the complexity of achieving sustainable development, all forms of collaboration count, and voluntary work carried out by EvalYouth chapters has a relevant role in increasing the involvement of youth in the promotion of evaluation as a means of promoting transparency and accountability in development policies. They also bring together and make positive use of the volunteer work of YEEs to further their own professional development and leadership in the evaluation ecosystem. In addition, the creation and sustainability of EvalYouth chapters is an exercise in network governance.


However, encouraging the participation and self-organization of young evaluators is a goal that should not be underestimated, as it entails multiple challenges. Some reflections, in the context of the EvalYothLAC experience, are outlined below.


1. YEEs initiatives are spaces that contribute to reducing institutional disaffection (Torcal, 2006) among young people

According to the University of Cambridge, young people in Latin America currently experience two phenomena: the first is democratic apathy; that is, scepticism about institutions and a low interest in getting involved in politics. The second is democratic antipathy, which is generated when there is a systematic exclusion of youth and the violation of their rights by the state. [2] This provokes a rejection of democracies, especially when they are living in unstable political regimes, whose institutions do not encourage youth development and participation.


Considering the challenges currently faced by Latin American democracies, EvalYouth initiatives are spaces in which values of good governance, such as citizen participation, and transparent and accountable institutions, are promoted. Thus, YEE networks can contribute directly or indirectly to diminishing youth apathy and democratic antipathy.


2. YEE chapters represent a network governance challenge in themselves

Sustainable development issues are complex, and often beyond the capacity of individual states. The active involvement of non-governmental actors is fundamental to making progress in tackling global challenges. The ideal of network governance is horizontal government, which functions particularly through self-organization and inter-organization among diverse actors and citizens.


3. Coordination and involvement of young people

Young people are not typically taught how to coordinate themselves to solve public problems, much less how to get involved in voluntary initiatives. EvalYouth chapters provide a platform for young individuals to exercise their rights to free association and citizen participation.


4. Challenges of self-organization

YEE chapters face challenges related to self-organization and collaboration with other actors in the evaluation ecosystem, such as VOPEs, international organizations and even governmental actors. Endogenously, the capacities of members to coordinate, communicate, and achieve common goals vary significantly.


5. Importance of trust and incentives

Trust-building and creating incentives for voluntary participation are crucial for successful self-organization within YEE chapters. It is important to note that work within the framework of EvalYouth chapters is voluntary, and although they are coordinated by elected leaders, this does not give them a position of authority over other members of the chapters. A leader’s task is to coordinate and steer their chapter’s different aims, resources, knowledge, and efforts. To achieve this purpose, self-organization is crucial, but this requires weaving bonds of trust and creating incentives to encourage voluntary participation. Governance is continuously associated with institutions, but rarely with human interactions. Yet these human interactions are indispensable for cooperation.


6. Motivation and governance for SDGs

Motivation is essential to sustain the evaluation ecosystem, while governance mechanisms enable its functioning. Effective and affective governance is seen as necessary for evaluating and achieving the SDGs. EvalYouthLAC seeks to contribute to both enabling the participation of YEEs, and encouraging their self-organization towards their professionalization while supporting innovation in our practice.



References

  • Monkelbaan, J. (2019). Governance for the Sustainable Development Goals. Singapur: Springer.

  • Torcal, M. (2006). “Desafección institucional e historia democrática en las nuevas democracias”. Revista SAAP. 2:3, agosto, pp. 591-634.

 

Miriam Ordoñez holds a PhD in Development Studies in Latin America from the Mora Institute. For 12 years she has been a public official, professor, researcher, external consultant, and volunteer in strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation. Currently, she co-leads the Executive Committee 2023-2025 of EvalYouth LAC which seeks the professional development of young and emerging evaluators. Reach out to her via miriam.orbal@gmail.com.

 

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[1] EvalYouth Mexico was initially formed in 2017 within the National Academy of Mexican Evaluators (ACEVAL) by Gerardo Sánchez, Daniela Dorantes, Evelyn Aguado, and me.

[2] Luminate (2022). Youth and Democracy in Latin America. Retrieved from: https://luminategroup.com/storage/1459/EN_Youth_Democracy_Latin_America.pdf 



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