What is BW support's vision... continued (from the introduction to my master thesis)
‘Do not beat a drum with an axe’; ’Ngoma hairidzwe nedemo’ is a proverb from Zimbabwe in the Shona language. That proverb reflects what is the matter with evaluation at the moment. There is no single instrument with which you can answer the question: ‘What effect did a certain intervention have?’
This question immediately raises a myriad of other questions: ‘Whose intervention? Whose goals did it serve? Where did it take place? Who evaluates? Who is evaluated? What is an effect? Was there a cause? When can we call some action an intervention? In what context did it take place? About what can we know? How can we know it?’ And so – it will appear in the cause of this thesis – there are more instruments needed to answer this multiple question.
"Evaluation is one of the buzzwords in Development Assistance, certainly nowadays. In my day to day practice, there are very few evaluations of Capacity Development that can meet the standards of Capacity development itself.
Or, as Horton puts it: “Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of evaluations are carried out in research or development organisations each year. Most of these evaluations assess the progress or results of projects or programs and are held to meet the external accountability requirements of funding organisations that support research and development activities.
Very few evaluations have been carried out to assess the capacity of organisations to conduct research or development activities, the capacity development process themselves, or the extent to which capacity development leads to an improvement in the organisations’ performance.”
My thesis focuses on the question why this is so and what we can do about it.
I was originally trained as a physicist. At that time I developed a great believe in natural science (with an emphasis on Popper’s falsification theory).
During my studies in science philosophy (which I chose as a secondary course) I met Popper’s thinking more thoroughly, but also Kant, Hegel, Marx.
Above all the Frankfurter Schule appealed to me. Combining both physics and philosophy taught me that the postulate of analysing ‘an objective world’ from an outside position was virtually impossible. For instance Heisenberg (one of the founders of modern physics) expressed: “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature as it reveals itself to our own way of asking questions.”
Habermas was my first encounter with critical theory. Meanwhile I was influenced by the main ideology in the student movement of the time: Marxism, or as nowadays it is usually expressed: the critical emancipatory paradigm; a way of exercising science that offered perspective of a revolutionary stance in favour of the ‘wretched of the earth’.
Fortunately my group of (philosophy-)students was critical enough, which saved me from the later deceptions that communism brought to so many of my generation.
Little by little I decided that it was difficult enough to understand what moves people to act as they do in their context. Later (working for over a decade as a -photo-journalist in developing countries) I used to look at the world from that perspective and my example was anthropological work like that of Malinowski, Lewis and Van Maanen. I was more inclined to interpret the world than to change it…
The later upcoming postmodernism mostly escaped my attention, until I moved further on the path of life… And that is where I stood before I entered into the implementation and change of what I once only interpreted: becoming a manager in NiZA, The Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa. Practising (mostly through trial and error) new forms of support (Capacity development) to Civil Society in the South. "
Meanwhile I have left NiZA to start my own company BWsupport. This move came unexpectedly but it gives me the freedom to focus more on the two issues I see as most important in International Cooperation: Public sphere (or rather The Public Arena) and Evaluation.