Making Evaluations Come to Life: An Amazing Event with USAID/Vietnam

Sep 18, 2017 by Melissa Patsalides Comments (0)

Melissa Patsalides is the Director of USAID/PPL's Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research.

A good part of my office’s work is about helping staff gather and act on quality evidence and evaluation in collaboration with partners. But being based in Washington, it’s not often enough that I get to watch it play out in the field. So imagine my glee, when during a recent TDY to Vietnam, I got to participate in an event that brought together development partners to promote learning from evaluation.

Image: The Symposium poster session. Credit: MSI

The mission there recently hosted its 2nd Annual Evaluation Learning Symposium. Sponsored by USAID, the Vietnam Institute of Economics, the Canadian Embassy, the United Nations Development Program and Catholic Relief Services, the event brought together partners to present and discuss evaluation findings. The morning focused on learning within sectors including environment, economic governance, health and disabilities and gender - through both breakout groups and a very cool poster session. The mission and a wide range of partners had interesting evaluations to present and discuss how those findings were applied and could be further shared with others.For our part, we helped facilitate the morning breakouts and presented in the afternoon sessions on innovative approaches to evaluation and to learning from and using evaluations. We shared some of our office’s thinking about evaluation needing to be fit for purpose as well as the Collaborating, Learning and Adapting framework.

In addition to learning from evaluation findings, the symposium provided an opportunity for participants to strengthen their networks and build new connections, both sectorally and among M&E practitioners. There was a tangible energy throughout the day - participants were excited to share what they were learning and how they were acting on it. And they were grateful that USAID was hosting such an event.

Image: Dr. Nguyen Chien Thang, Deputy Director General, VIE/VASS shakes hands with Emily Rupp, Deputy Director, Program Development Office, USAID/Vietnam. Credit: MSI

The Evaluation Learning Symposium demonstrates how strategic collaboration with partners and an intentional focus on learning can make evaluation findings really come to life. I am impressed by the mission’s commitment to learning and partnership that enabled the second annual event to improve upon the first and to continue going forward. From the leadership of the Front Office, the vision the Program Office, the enthusiasm of the Technical Offices and the drive of the mission’s MEL platform, the commitment of the whole mission was to use the event to drive toward better development outcomes for Vietnam.

Participating in the event was as invigorating for me as it was for many participants. Examples of such initiative and dedication to learning from evaluation and improving USAID’s development programs remind me why I do what I do. Hats off to USAID/Vietnam and its partners.