When I joined Plan Vietnam this summer, I was clearly told about my responsibilities, a large chunk of which included preparing an evaluation report to build a foundation for designing projects for the next 5 years. As exciting as it sounded, it somehow took a backseat during the first month since we were waiting for the data to come in from the field. Meanwhile, I familiarized myself with Plan Vietnam’s approach to addressing issues related to child rights. I have to admit – it is the people here who make this organization what it is. My colleagues here are incredibly patient and helpful. Each vertical carved out time from their schedule to speak with me individually, for me to ask my plethora of trivial questions. These questions did not end in the office – I didn’t spare them even during our lunch hours. Here’s a subset of them in one of our daily lunch places on a regular day when I asked everyone to stop eating and look at the camera.
There is clearly an admirable level of passion among everyone, which is honestly quite contagious.
I digress. The point is, my first month was very smooth – reading (too many) reports, speaking with various program teams and sort of evaluating the evaluation system here. I even gave a presentation on my assessment of Plan Vietnam’s M&E framework along with some suggestions based on my experiences. I felt appreciated and accomplished. Then one day, I was told that the Baseline data is in. In hindsight, I knew that the data would come in by July and the report is due in early August. This report is supposed to present an accurate depiction of the impact that Plan’s projects have had all over Vietnam – so this was a huge collaboration across all verticals and we knew this was important. Yet, we were not prepared. Now the analysis part was not the challenge. The problem was that this was crunch time for all the staff, who were tying up loose ends after the most demanding time of the year – the dreaded fiscal year-end cycle. I was slightly reluctant to ask my already burdened colleagues for their time. And I could see this report slowly becoming less of a priority.
When I finally got all the information from all teams to create the report, it was time to panic. The very first draft was over 70 pages long – and I had not even done writing the results! The deadline was right around the corner and I had to write a concise analysis of the results as well as the technical methodologies involved in data collection. I also spent hours editing and re-editing and paraphrasing and slashing and re-writing most of the content every day, while profusely guzzling mug after mug of that righteous Vietnamese coffee. All of this while spending an unusual amount of time playing with the sizes of the charts and graphs to minimize space.
After that numbing experience, I can’t help but be all teary-eyed, looking at the full report sitting in front of me. Is this real life?! Look how prreettttyyy!! (Warning: bad picture quality).