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Interview with Hlali Kgaphola

The University of Bern has hosted IPDET (the International Program for Development Evaluation Training) for the second time. For three weeks, about 250 international experts in evaluation met at the Center for Continuing Education (ZUW).

Hlali Kemedi Kgaphola, 27 years old and based in Pretoria, South Africa, was one of them. The young economist with a Master’s degree in Public Policy has conducted evaluations for different stakeholders in public administration. Lately, she has also become acquainted with the view from the other side as a commissioner of evaluations in the Department of Social Development.


Why did you take part in IPDET? What were your expectations?

I wanted to enhance my knowledge and get to know new evaluation methods and tools that I might not be aware of. I don’t know where my career will take me in the next 10 years. That’s why I want to acquire a holistic view on evaluation – from the perspective of someone who actually conducts evaluations as well as from that of someone who commissions them. I’m also responsible for capacitating evaluators on a provincial level, and I wanted to be better equipped for this position. IPDET achieves all this – and I’m loving it! I will return to my country, to my department with new skills and fresh ideas, and will also be able to pass them on by sharing them with my colleagues. I am very grateful that there are scholarships available to make this experience possible.

What are the most important insights you gained from IPDET?

I have gained substantial insights into the conduct of evaluations and developed a more focused view on what we are trying to achieve with evaluations – both as an evaluator and as a commissioner. However the top two takeaways are the re-emphasis of the importance of theory in conducting monitoring and evaluation and how to clearly articulate the evaluation hypothesis for monitoring and evaluation purposes.

Experts came here from more than 70 countries to attend the event. What was your experience of this international “IPDET community”?

One thing that I truly appreciate about IPDET is the supportive learning environment it creates with many opportunities for networking and exchange throughout the program delivery. This is something that attracted me to the program and I am really pleased it is really happening. I am actually getting to know experts from all over the world in one place, have the opportunity to exchange ideas, and also be able to learn from their experiences in their countries. We’ll be taking home not just new knowledge but also a lot of new contacts. That’s what the IPDET community is all about – people enhancing their knowledge and skill in evaluation as well as networking and assisting each other on relevant evaluation topics. In a sense, IPDET is like an open space for me, where I can ask a question and receive ten different views from ten different countries.

This was your first time in Switzerland. What were your expectations of Bern? Did anything come as a particular surprise to you?

I didn’t have too many expectations before coming here, I was open minded. However, Bern is certainly smaller than I had imaged. Nonetheless, its old architectural landscape is beautiful and I wouldn’t mind considering furthering my studies here. I was certainly intrigued by the culture of Bern – inclusive of social aspects, for example, socialization at the Aare River. All the people from different backgrounds and walks of life swimming together in the river. This “socializing” in the Aare really is unique! I even swam in the Aare myself, and that was an amazing experience. I’ve noticed that you really love bread here, and I am really looking forward to tasting other Swiss signatory dishes as well as your cheese.

How are you going to describe Bern back home?

I’d definitely say beautiful, peaceful, and clean! As we were taking a walk along the Aare, I saw a woman pick up a bottle, which someone else had dropped on the ground, and put it in the bin. That is not common at all, and a surprisingly pleasant gesture to see.

Hlali Kgaphola from South Africa, IPDET 2019