What is one big challenge and opportunity that young evaluators face in the post-Soviet space? My colleague and friend Tamara from Ukraine and I, Zoya from Kyrgyzstan, spoke with several new, as well as seasoned, evaluators from Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Ukraine to explore the issue.
We found that one of the greatest challenges young and emerging evaluators face is the lack of visibility of evaluation as a professional field. The field of evaluation is rather new in the region. Higher education institutions do not offer Monitoring and Evaluation majors or even classes, although experienced evaluation professionals have started advocating for the inclusion of evaluation-related subjects into university curricular. Hence, students do not even consider exploring the area, building up relevant skills or venturing into it as a career choice. Young professionals usually learn about evaluation only after they start their careers in other fields and get involved in projects employing evaluations.
At the same time, an opportunity here is a growing interest in the field of evaluation in the professional world in general. Although evaluation as a field is novel to the post-Soviet region and is still underdeveloped, there is a growing appetite for it. More international donors make evaluation of their projects run in the region a requirement or at least a recommendation. They are interested in training their current local staff and hiring more M&E specialists to perform evaluation-related tasks. Moreover, regional evaluation specialists advocate for and work on including M&E in university curricula. In this light, there is an opportunity to explore forming strategic partnerships with institutions interested in developing skills and capacities of local evaluators, such as UN agencies and other institutions providing capacity building at the global level, for example, the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET), and universities.
To sum up, because evaluation is a new field, not many university students or young professionals choose it as a career. But, since many international organizations and projects are now conducting monitoring and evaluation exercises on a more consistent basis, evaluation is proving to be a more in-demand career, which young professionals can tap into.