5.5 Engagement and reflection

It is well established that change initiatives that do not involve the people concerned do not last. Initiatives should focus on the needs and rights of the community; this will ultimately establish people’s ownership of the initiative and such ownership will bring sustainability to the change. The role of the change agent (for example, the VOPE) will be as a facilitator during the implementation of the initiative.

Assurance of stakeholder engagement and feedback through well-structured reflection processes is already an essential pillar in the work of evaluators. We know that people and groups who have an interest in the planning activities, or who are responsible for delivering various actions, must be made aware of any changes that affect them, and more: they must be engaged in the definition of the issues and in the design of the solutions. Moreover, engagement tends to support the following positive features:

  •  shifting from the short term to long-term results where the engagement and reflection processes will focus on capturing the outcomes from both individual and community levels;
  • moving from things to people as changes will affect people and practices first and foremost;
  • supporting drivers for social change where the results of the engagement and reflection processes will be used to inform the changes;
  • moving accountability to the communities that are affected by the change;
  • empowering of worst-off groups, with an equity-focused purpose;
  • building a culture of effective participation.

The professionalization journey must be a learning opportunity. Therefore, it does not occur in a simple single sitting. It evolves starting with individuals raising important issues and questioning assumptions through group-based analyses that bring out different perspectives and information inputs. So, the VOPE will need to plan learning as a series of reflective events.

The evaluation community has strong background in monitoring that can be applied to the reflective process of professionalization. Evaluators can develop a list of key issues associated with professionalization in their context (e.g., existing levels of professionalization, problems associated with lack of professionalization, missing resources, layers of expertise, risks to individuals, risks to the collectivities, risks to the commissioners) and associate indicators with each issue. Probably encouraged by the VOPE, evaluators can collect monitoring data to assess the current situation as well as the evolution of the situation. Through this process, the community can identify shared concerns and possible solutions. It can also involve neighbouring communities as well as evaluation commissioners and users in developing an understanding of the monitoring data and in identifying solutions to issues.

So, questions to you, VOPE leaders: has the VOPE involved the different groups that might be affected by a professionalization process? Have their concerns been included in the change plan? Has the VOPE devised an approach to monitor the situation and ensure the ability to react nimbly to changing conditions? Are accountabilities for informing and reporting clear? 

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