Uniting for Impact: The Power of Collaboration and In-Person Connections at the AfrEA Conference 

Patrizia Cocca
29 March 2024
The Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) at the 11th African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) Conference in Kigali, Rwanda
As a network with multiple partners all over the world, GEI often comes off as a complex and fragmented organization. Patrizia Cocca, GEI's Communications and KM Lead, saw an opportunity for the GEI network to come together and demonstrate its unity at the 11th AfrEA Conference.

Patrizia Cocca leads the Communications and Knowledge Management team of GEI.


As the Communications and Knowledge Management Lead for the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI), I've seen up close the challenges and rewards of promoting strong Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems at a national level.  

Our network's complexity, with its CLEAR centers in Africa, South and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, IPDET and ENAP training facilities, the BetterEvaluation knowledge platform, and global events like gLOCAL evaluation week and the National Evaluation Capacities Conference, has sometimes led to confusion among our stakeholders. This experience has reinforced my belief in the value of collaboration and the transformative power of in-person meetings.  

Our first physical presence at the AfrEA Conference, held in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2024, was a deliberate and strategic effort to present GEI as a cohesive network. Reflecting on this decision, I realize it was a pivotal moment for us to come together and demonstrate our unity. Our conference booth served as a focal point, not just for GEI, but also for our CLEAR centers in Africa, showcasing our collective endeavors.  

The success of our participation in AfrEA exceeded my expectations. We welcomed hundreds of visitors, many of whom said they had not fully grasped the scale of our network or the connections between GEI, the CLEAR centers, and IPDET until they talked to us at the conference. From a public relations perspective, it was a remarkable achievement. More importantly, it was an opportunity to explain the extensive resources we offer on our knowledge platform and the significant work we undertake and look to expand upon.  

Effective communication—respecting cultural and language barriers—was crucial in encouraging participation from attendees. At international events, such as the AfrEA Conference, it’s important to understand and be understood, not only on a linguistic level but also culturally. For this reason, at our booth, we had staff fluent in the working languages of the AfrEA attendees and printed materials in the different languages. We also had staff who perform varied roles within our network, from the GEI program manager to communications specialists, CLEAR directors, and evaluation specialists.  

Promoting gLOCAL, our flagship knowledge-sharing event, was another conference highlight. gLOCAL is a week dedicated to pooling resources and inviting organizers worldwide to share knowledge. Its theme in 2024 focuses on how evaluation can transform our systems and society, and I am happy to announce that we have received over 400 event proposals. We expect about 20,000 participants from all over the globe to take part in the week, and I am excited at the prospect of the incredible conversations and the amount of knowledge these events will generate.  

The most gratifying part of the conference, however, was the chance to meet people in person. It was truly heartwarming to establish new connections and, dare I say, friendships to help us in our mission to raise awareness about evaluation. These face-to-face interactions emphasize the importance of community and collaboration in our efforts to transform systems and societies through evaluation.  

Looking back, I can confidently say that this is an experience I am keen to replicate. GEI's presence at the AfrEA Conference has not only elevated awareness about our work but has also highlighted the importance of collaboration and in-person engagement at regional and country levels.  

As we anticipate future events, I am reminded of the power of coming together, sharing knowledge, and building a united front to advance the field of evaluation. Digital platforms are invaluable, but the value of human connections and the collaborative spirit is irreplaceable and something I will always champion.  

Our participation at the AfrEA Conference is an important milestone for GEI, and it reinforces the significance of collaboration. As we look to the future, I am inspired to carry this spirit of unity and shared purpose forward and to continue to make a meaningful difference in the world of sustainable development.