Learning and Breaking Bread: Viewpoints from Evaluation 2018

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We hope we’ve started a new tradition! Here’s the recipe: 1) Pick the most interesting restaurant in whatever town we find ourselves, 2) round up as many MSI colleagues as possible, 3) invite folks from outside MSI who are going to present, or be the chairs or discussants for the upcoming conference sessions we are in, and 4) book the biggest table.

Beyond that, MSI needs no guidance.

In Cleveland, where a cadre of MSI staff recently visited for the annual American Evaluation Association (AEA) 2018 Conference, the restaurant just had to be Lola. Chef/owner Michael Symon has rock star status in the industry, as television’s “Iron Chef,” and a leader in bringing back the best of American regional cuisine, with an updated artisanal twist. (My expansive, house-made charcuterie plate, which went around the table, was the best I’ve ever had, and then some.)

The “friends” we gathered, old and new, were also terrific:

  • Bhavani Pathak, MSI’s Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) for our Washington-based analytic services and evaluation support contract for USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment (E3) who was deep in a discussion about evaluations with MSI’s Jacob Patterson-Stein and Thomaz Alvares.
  • Savi Mull, field team director for MSI’s former five-year anti-human trafficking project with USAID’s regional Mission for South Asia, now with the C&A Foundation. She traded monitoring and evaluation stories with MSI’s Lala Kasimova, Set Oya and Dan Killian.
  • Jorge Miranda, from 3ie, who shared a panel on Friday. He helped me to understand the intricacies of 3ie’s process for deciding which of the impact evaluations their database receives are worth sharing with the world.

After a typical hectic day at any AEA annual meeting – where one wants to be in at least three different sessions in every time slot – the slower pace of a great dinner with a mix of MSI colleagues and stimulating friends beyond our ranks was a revelation.

With more time to talk at a slower pace, there was only a couple unanswered question – why haven’t we always done this? And if we did it again, how could we better collaborate, and what more could we learn and share?

Blog posts on the MSI website represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of MSI.


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