I attended IPDET two years ago; and EPDET a year before that. Those were life changing experiences. I learned a lot and met some really great people from all around the world; my IPDET family. This year is IPDET’s 15th anniversary, the great occasion to look back, but also to talk about the future. I was really honored when Linda and Ray accepted my proposal to do this interview. For all of you who don’t know, Linda Morra Imas and Ray Rist are IPDET creators and co-directors; and I would add – the greatest of all IPDETers.
1. What’s the story behind the IPDET; what motivated you to initiate IPDET fifteen years ago? Are those drivers still valid?
Linda and Ray: In large part, the credit is due to Bob Picciotto who was then Director General, Evaluation for the World Bank. Bob always had a vision for a world-class course on development evaluation. Way back in 1998, [Linda speaking] I was at the World Bank and working with him. I was in the midst of a job change and we were talking about what I wanted to do and I said, “Well Bob, you know how you have always talked about having a world class course on development evaluation, I would like to develop it.” He said OK, but he did not want it supply driven. I got some resources to do a large survey to find out what training in development evaluation methods was being offered, by whom, when, where, and how frequently. It was 1999 when we had the results. It showed that little training specific to development evaluation was available. When it was offered, it was typically only a few days in length, offered once rather than recurring, and was usually training in a donor’s specific project rating system or a short part of a longer project management course. The survey found that there was demand for recurring training that would provide generic tools for evaluating the results of development interventions.
My colleague, Ray, joined the Operations Evaluation Department around the time the survey results were presented and together we developed the format of a two week core overview course on development evaluation followed by two weeks of individual free-standing workshops on specific development evaluation topics taught by the best instructors available worldwide. We wanted the workshops to be available for continuing professional education. We also wanted to locate the program in an international academic setting with easy airport access, classrooms, lecture halls, dining rooms, dorms, and the like. IPDET’s title got approved, we got a little seed money, and we were off!
2. Status of development evaluation changed a lot in last two decades. For many, this period is “the golden age” of the evaluation. How have all these changes affected IPDET?
Linda and Ray: We find those coming to IPDET are younger than in the early days, but also more experienced in M&E. They are challenging and keep us on our toes, as well they should! It is a continually changing field and we are always updating the curriculum and trying out new workshops.
3. Thousands of people from all around the globe attended IPDET. It became a brand in the world of evaluation. As a founder of the IPDET and the one who met all those people in person, what would you highlight as the most important IPDET achievements?
First, IPDET has strongly promoted the theory of change….. Second, we have focused on results and that to make a difference, you need results and results are not outputs….. But perhaps most importantly, we have built a community…
Linda and Ray: We would highlight 3, although it is difficult to choose! First, IPDET has strongly promoted the theory of change, especially the development of contextual factors that we believe are so key to understanding, and use of the design matrix to plan the evaluation. We now see these used in practice all over the world. Second, we have focused on results and that to make a difference, you need results and results are not outputs. We have influenced the thinking of thousands on this point. But perhaps most importantly, we have built a community. With the listserv, no IPDET evaluator working in development has to feel isolated and alone—they have the entire IPDET community that they can connect with and get help from.
4. Besides IPDET, you are offering mini IPDETs all around the world. Have you thought about some other ways of making IPDET locally or regionally available – franchising, IPDET Certified Trainers, etc? What do you think about such scenario for IPDET?
Linda and Ray: We can assure you that we are thinking about these issues! We know that many, if not the majority of, IPDET participants share the knowledge they have gained at IPDET with their colleagues and more widely. The slides we use for the Core have always been in the public domain; we ask only that they be credited appropriately. So formalizing the training that we know is going on anyway seems like it might be a good idea and we are discussing the idea.
5. This year is IPDET’s 15th anniversary, what are the plans for next 15 years? How do you see the future of IPDET?
Linda and Ray: A consulting firm has been engaged to help us develop a strategic vision for the next 15 years. It will consider issues such as regional availability, franchising, IPDET certified trainers and the like. So stay tuned. In the meantime, join us in wishing IPDET a happy 15th birthday!!!!
Credits for “IPDET 15th Anniversary” illustration goes to Nikola Lazarevic