60 Seconds with…Jessica Rust-Smith

Our ‘60 Seconds with…’ blogs are designed to provide a quick run down of what our staff do here at Itad. Here is what Jessie had to say…

What’s your job here at Itad?

I am a Consultant in the Private Sector Development & Wealth Creation theme. I have been a staff member at Itad since June 2014.

What does that involve?

I work on a variety of jobs, including evaluations of programmes promoting growth in agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa (Tanzania Growth Programmes, West Africa Food Markets).  I’m also working on the M&E component of the BEAM Exchange – a global learning platform for market systems development; and I’m doing some work on Monitoring & Learning for Digital Jobs Africa – promoting the creation of jobs in the IT sector for African youth.

I do a variety of work on these jobs, from research, data analysis and writing, to designing elements of the evaluations.

How did you get into the field?

After finishing my MSc in 2012 my first job was with Engineers Without Borders Canada in Kenya. I was seconded to an M&E team in an agricultural market development programme.  This was my first experience in both M&E and market systems development, and it was very formative.  I felt we were trying very new implementation and measurement practices in development, and I wanted to continue to be part of this work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think Itad is trying new and innovative practices in M&E for development, and so I am immersed in an environment where I am always learning.  I also like having a variety of work, with the multiple jobs I am involved in—though it does involve a lot of time management! Last but not least, I have fantastic co-workers, who are smart, friendly and supportive.

What new innovations or methods have you noticed in your sector?

I’m beginning to do a lot of work in ‘Realist Evaluation’ – an evaluation approach that is relatively new to the development sector. It is a theory-based approach, so some of the concepts can be difficult to grasp initially, and much of the literature published to date is very academic and dense. I find learning from real world examples the best for coming to grips with how it works.

Recent highlight or job wins?

I recently finished work with a team on a mid-term evaluation for the World Bank Group. It was satisfying to have seen an evaluation through from start to finish for the first time, as in my previous job I did much more Monitoring than Evaluating.

Most interesting question you have been asked recently?

A client asked me what it is I think they (the client) want from our evaluation. Of course I could point to the Terms of Reference and say, ‘that’s what the client wants’, but it’s so important to remind myself of the bigger questions: ‘what is the end-use of this evaluation?’, ‘will this evaluation effect change?’, ‘how will I know if change has happened?’.

Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?

Morogoro, Tanzania – our team travelled there to visit our Tanzanian counterparts, who are based at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA).  Their campus is very beautiful–as well as being surrounded by lush gardens and fields of demonstration crops, it is nestled at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains.

Jessica Rust-Smith, September 2015

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