5.4 Strategy

The previous sections address the “what” (definition), “why” (reasons), and “how” (mechanisms) of the professionalization journey. It is time to think about the road or set of roads that is likely to bring the national evaluation professionalization picture from the current to the sought (even ideal) state.

Professionalizing means changing – from informal to structured, from unorganized to organized, from undefined to explicit – and can therefore be cast within a change management framework. Fortunately, there is a lot of literature and documentation on change management. From it comes the following list of steps that should be considered:

  1. Preliminary analysis: description of the current situation; perceptions of stakeholders; problems, issues, concerns. Remember: collective action takes root only if a collective pain is felt; no pain, no change.
  2. Context: list of stakeholders, their interests, and their positions; key aspects of the environment that affect the problematic situation; pace of change; position of the VOPE in this context including the receptivity of the environment and the capacity of the VOPE to deliver. Some authors have suggested that four categories of contextual variables worth considering are: the competitive environment, the expectations of those in contact with the profession or trade, technological and methodological developments, and legal and regulatory constraints and facilitators.
  3. Enablers and obstacles: determine what the enablers and obstacles to professionalization are that make the current situation what it is; identify enablers that could be reinforced and obstacles that could be minimized; analyse the sources of resistance to change and identify countermeasures.
  4. Planning the actions: based on accessible enablers and obstacles, plan the actions that will move the force fields in the direction of professionalization, including the mechanisms listed in section 5.3.
  5. Monitoring: keep a close eye on a limited set of indicators of change including outputs (e.g., dialogue with stakeholders, new competency framework) and outcomes (e.g., number of individuals trained, number of evaluations produced).
  6. Reacting: adjust the plan in pace, sequencing, and even content based on the reactions of the stakeholders and the monitoring data.

It is particularly crucial that the VOPE chooses a strategy that is commensurate to its capacity to implement it. There is no point in developing a formidable plan if resources (of all types) are not available. That said, developing an open, inclusive, and ambitious (but realistic) plan is also a way to help adjoining partners in the change and professionalization strategy.

Don’t forget that key elements of success in change management are transparency and communication. Secrecy and underhandedness are recipes for disaster in the short or medium term. With transparency and communication, the dynamics of the situation become rapidly clear and can be readily addressed. Another key is the involvement of all parties to a change and the identification of benefits for all that are in excess of the costs associated with any change.

So, questions to you, VOPE leaders: have you conducted an assessment of the national context? Do you know who the key stakeholders are and what their positions are vis à vis professionalization of evaluation practice? Have you had a dialogue with your membership on the risks and opportunities of professionalization? Does your VOPE (and indeed your national ecosystem) possess the resources to support a professional change?

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