Evaluation on the Balkans and in Southeastern Europe is on the move! More specifically, professionalization, formalization, and networking is increasing. There are national networks in most countries, some are formalized and some are informal, some have been around several years,and some are recent.
This takes place under the aegis of the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), and also EvalPartners. The national networks are referred to as VOPEs (Voluntary Organization of Professional Evaluators), and all VOPEs are members of IOCE.
The beginnings may have been in Slovenia and with the Slovenian Evaluation Society. In 2012 this VOPE proposed to establish the Western Balkan Evaluation Network (WBEN), with members from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Recently the Evaluation Society in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized the 1st Biannual Regional Conference of Evaluators (Policy impact evaluation in Western Balkan 2015). I was invited to participate, arrived early for a networking meeting, and delivered a paper on stakeholder analysis. The outcome of the networking meeting was that I took on the responsibility for establishing a VOPE in Bulgaria (possibly the only country in the region without one). To make a long story short, the founding meeting of the Bulgarian Monitoring and Evaluation Network (BEN) took place in June 2016. I was appointed as Chair of the Governing Board, and as National Coordinator.
The Statute of this "non-profit association for public benefit", Article 5, states (excerpt):
"The Association is established to support the development of active civil position and empowerment of civil society for monitoring and evaluation of the economic, fiscal and social policy ... In this context, the Association will work for:
- creation, implementation and development of the network potential among other national evaluation networks in the countries neighboring Bulgaria and at international level;
- development and expansion of the national partner network of non-profit organizations and independent media for exchange of good practices and interaction for monitoring of management processes;
- stimulating the link between science, education and business as a factor for dynamic and sustainable growth, attracting expertise to solve the short-term and long-term problems for the society in various fields;
- establishing forms of dialogue between civil society, business, state and local authorities for development of the social environment with a competitive environment and improving the productivity, the standards of living and the working conditions;
- manufacture and maintenance of standardization in evaluation procedures, analysis and monitoring procedures;
- assisting in the preparation of assignments on projects and supporting the implementation of projects in the areas funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and other similar organizations;
- development and implementation of evaluations and practical guidance in various areas."
Regarding the future, we have just started, but it looks bright! The founding members represent public sector, private sector and civil society, and are among the most experienced (and well as connected) in the country. A first meeting of the network is scheduled for 1 October 2016, at which time we will discuss future plans. On the short term we will develop the website, which for now contains no information. On the longer term we have, jointly with colleagues in the networks in Greece and Macedonia, submitted a proposal to IOCE to fund a regional center that would provide training capabilities in evaluation. We look forward to collaborating with VOPEs, and evaluation networks more generally, at national, regional and international levels, and in Europe and beyond.
(1) This article is also published on LinkedIn Pulse, slightly revised, at URL: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bulgarian-monitoring-evaluation-network-lars-soeftestad.
(2) Image credit: Lars Soeftestad, Supras Ltd. Location: Makoko village, Lagos Lagoon, Lagos, Nigeria (May 2002). A community meeting organized in connection with a monitoring mission of "Metropolitan Development Project," a World Bank funded project. The meeting engaged villagers in building community infrastructure for water and sanitation. Lars Soeftestad is seated at the back (he functioned as facilitator and conflict mediator).
(3) This article was updated 10 September 2018.
Bulgarian Monitoring and Evaluation Network. n.d. URLs: http://www.evaluation.bg & www.facebook.com/evaluationBG.
International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE). n.d. URL: http://www.ioce.net.
"Policy impact evaluation in Western Balkans." 2015. Conference, Sarajevo, October 2015. URL: https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2015/08/24/policy-impact-evaluation-in-western-balkan-public-welfare-is-their-concern/.
Western Balkan Evaluation Network (WBEN). URL: http://www.sdeval.si/weben