Olivier [user:field_middlename] Cossée

Olivier Cossée

Senior Evaluation Manager
FAO
Italy

More about me

I am an evaluator with over 20 years of evaluation practice, mainly as part of the central evaluation offices of two United Nations agencies: FAO and UNDP. Prior to that, I have worked for 10 years for NGOs and for the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) as a rural development expert and programme manager in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Mauritania. An agronomist by training and a generalist by inclination, I have evaluated programmes a wide array of domains and sectors beyond rural development and natural resource management, such as in the “humanitarian-development nexus” and resilience building, or assistance to democratic governance, rule of law and elections. I have also evaluated development approaches and strategies, such as participatory approaches, programme approach, and global development goals and agendas (MDGs, SDGs).

    • Hi Silvia and all,

      I agree that evaluators are not the only one trying to find solutions, and that programme managers and decision makers should not be off the hook, but I do think that evaluators need to propose reasonable solutions to the problems they raise.

      Otherwise I don’t see their value added, nor what makes evaluation different from research. Also, an evaluation that would shy away from proposing solutions would be in my opinion a rather facile and negative exercise: it’s not so hard to spot issues and problems, anyone can do that; the hard part is to propose something better, in a constructive manner. Forcing oneself to come up with reasonable alternatives is often an exercise in humility, in that it forces one to realize that “critique is easy, but art is difficult”.

      All the best,

      Olivier

    • Hi everyone!

      I too have been following the thread with much interest. I cannot agree more with Lal about the need for clarity, brevity and freedom from jargon. Until you are able to explain in a few simple words the project that you have evaluated to someone who knows nothing about it (like your grandmother or your uncle), then you haven’t evaluated it yet. You’ve just collected data, that’s all. You have yet to digest this data, to see what it means, to synthetize it into a crisp, usable diagnostic of problems and possible solutions. Being able to summarize an evaluation into a clear and convincing “elevator pitch” is key to utility. It is also important for the evaluator to be able to hammer this clear message again and again, consistently across different audiences.

      Cheers,

      Olivier

    • Thanks to Christine for launching this interesting topic. It has been a worry for some time for me. I work in the FAO evaluation office and lead country programme evaluations in African countries. From this work, it seems to me that the Agriculture Ministry is often seen as one of the most bureaucratic and least effective in government, the one least likely to make good use its funding. I venture that the lack of funding for agriculture may be linked to this perception. Consequently, an organization such as mine (FAO) should crank up its assistance to Agriculture Ministries, not to use their programme delivery system without question but rather to ***reform*** it and make them less bureaucratic and more efficient, and therefore more attractive for national and international donors.

      This is certainly the picture we got in Uganda, where half of all national treasury funding for agriculture goes to Operation Wealth Creation implemented by the Prime Minister Office and the Army, not by MAAIF (ag. ministry). When we asked why, the response we got was that MAAIF needed to get its act together rather than operate as an unstructured collection of departments competing for resources... The same picture emerges in Ethiopia, where the Government created the Agriculture Transformation Agency in 2010 precisely because they did not trust the Ministry of Agriculture to change, reform and deliver. ATA is getting massive funding from donors, far more than the Ministry of Agriculture, and the two institutions see one another as competitors.

      In other words, there may be more funding to agriculture than meet the eye. Some of it doesn't flow through the 'regular' channels, because these channels are seen as problematic by donors and governments. I think this diagnostic applies to FAO itself. There is currently a debate among donors about creating a global fund for agriculture on the model of the GFATM, and the rationale for it is: the current delivery channels can't absorb more funding and make good use of it.

      I don’t know if this resonates with others' experience, and welcome both rejoinders and rebuttals!

      Olivier