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AWARD presentations accepted at the 2016 European Evaluation Society Biennial conference

By Guest Blogger Apollo Nkwake

Despite decades of development partners investing in ‘capacity development’ is it possible to establish a measure of return on investment?  How do we know when capacity development initiatives work?

We at AWARD are excited that the European Evaluation Society has accepted AWARD’s research for presentation at their 2016 Biennial Evaluation conference.

The two papers accepted for presentation are:

     1. Evaluating the African Women in Science Empowerment model

     2. Retrospective Network Analysis: AWARD’s experience

The presentations will share AWARD’s innovative approaches to measuring impacts of capacity development. As many know, AWARD identifies leading African women scientists for a two-year fellowship. These high potential women scientists participate in leadership and science training, conferences, professional associations, mentoring, among others. 

So what? Do these activities make a difference? Off course we believe they do! But what difference do they make?

Do AWARD fellows become better researchers, leaders, collaborators, innovators, or change agents? The questions get even more complex: how do we know that the differences are because of AWARD’s interventions? Let’s say, as we just found out, that about 67% of AWARD’s post bachelor fellows go ahead to pursue masters and doctoral degrees, to what extent is this success a result of the AWARD fellowship? To what extent is the success as a result of changing national policy or even other factors?

AWARD aspires to apply state-of-the-art methods for program design, implementation and learning in order to deliver on our mission of Investing in African women scientists and institutions to deliver innovative, sustainable, gender-responsive agricultural research and development’s program. Our ability to engage and learn with such global communities of experts and practitioners enables us to use the most appropriate and credible approaches in answering complex questions-such as the ones mentioned above.

One of the papers accepted for presentation discusses AWARD’s approach to empowering Africa women in agricultural research, methods used to measure success and findings to date. AWARD takes a mixed methods approach to measuring fellow’s advancement. Lessons on AWARD’s empowerment measurement approach have been documented in a detailed report.

The second presentation discusses ways in which AWARD’s interventions intentionally (and unintentionally) facilitate networking and how networking is correlated with empowerment outcomes.  This research looked back at historical data (phase 1 of the AWARD fellowship) to answer the following questions:

  • Which elements of AWARD’s interventions, strategies and theories of change intentionally (and unintentionally) facilitate networking?
  • What factors within and outside of the AWARD fellowship (related to geographical proximity, social interactions, etc.) facilitate networking?
  • How is networking associated to empowerment outcomes?
  • How should AWARD better measure network mechanisms and benefits in future?

While fellows benefit from professional associations in very varied ways, this variable had the most complete/consistent social network information in the historical dataset.

The research shows that:

  • There are many ways in which AWARD’s theory of change is intentional about connecting scientists.
  • AWARD broadens geographic horizons. Over the course of the fellowship, AWARD fellows move from locally-based professional associations also joined by close peers into regional and international associations where they previously had few connections.
  • AWARD fellows are dispersed throughout a broad network of professional associations (more than 50, 2008-2011) as would be expected given their diverse origins and disciplines.
  • Dispersion-the fact that fellows tend to be part of professional associations of which other fellows are not members is associated with higher scores on empowerment indices. Fellows who end up on the outer edges of the professional association networks, i.e. those who share few overlaps with other AWARD fellows, score highest in terms of their leadership capability and empowerment indices.

Overall, the results of this project indicate that the potential of network analysis to reveal patterns in the effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of AWARD’s efforts is tremendous.