60 Seconds with…Jon Cooper

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

What’s your job here at Itad? 

I am an Associate Director, and I am responsible for the Human and Social Development Cluster of our evaluation themes, comprising Health, Social Protection & Livelihoods, and Education.

What does that involve?

I am ultimately accountable for the success of each of the themes against their business plans, and work with theme leaders and our Director to make the right commercial and strategic decisions.  I am also keen to ensure that the various business support teams are plugged into our evaluation projects so that we deliver quality services which are cost effective.

How did you get into the field?

I started life as a commercial lawyer, gradually moving from the private (mergers and acquisitions) to the third sector (development and charity law).  I then moved into a leadership role with Marie Stopes International, spending four years in Uganda as Country Director of its 300-employee platform, delivering 1,000 reproductive services nationwide every day.  My interest in the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ of development grew from my direct experience of service delivery within a complex environment and a failing health system. This led me to later join MSI’s HQ as Global Director of Evidence, Strategy & Innovation.  It was then a strategic next step to move on to Itad, where I get to look at and inform numerous aid agencies and their work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Combining my implementation and sectoral experience, as well as expertise from other professional worlds, to help inform evaluations and make development work better.

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

Increasing focus on utility orientated evaluations, coupled with a growing discourse around how to best provide real time feedback to enable adaptive programme management.  There are exciting possibilities around utilising iterative theories of change and contribution analysis to build an evolving (technologically enhanced) picture to really help implementers course correct through the lifetime of a programme.

Recent highlight?

We are really excited to get started with our theory based evaluation of the Fleming Fund, a Department of Health £265 million ‘one health’ programme to support low and middle income countries (LMICs) in tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if they are not tackled. A key aspect of our proposed methodology is to invest in co-developing, ex-ante, middle-range theories for three thematic focus areas that we have identified (Strengthened Surveillance Systems, Knowledge & Application, Awareness & Policy Change) which will unpack the overall theory of change.

Most interesting question you have been asked recently?

Can you truly remain independent when providing formative support to an implementer, involving advice that fundamentally affects the way the programme is being implemented?

 Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?

That would have to be the dye pits in Kano, Nigeria.

Jon Cooper, September 2015 (updated December 2016)

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