We sat down with the new Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning, Celeste Brubaker, before she departed to Hoima, Uganda. Celeste is originally from Charlton, MA. She graduated from American University with an MA in International Development and Development Economics in 2012 and from Manhattan College in 2007 with a BA in Economics. Read her full bio here.
Village Enterprise: What will be the primary focus of your work with Village Enterprise?
Celeste: My primary role will be leading and strengthening Village Enterprise’s monitoring, evaluation, research and learning (MERL) activities. Primary responsibilities will include managing the M&E team and building M&E capacity within the team, designing evaluations including evaluation instruments, conducting data analysis and authoring reports, managing the M&E database, facilitating Village Enterprise’s relationship with external M&E consultants and stakeholders, and sharing Village Enterprise’s MERL processes and findings with the public.
Village Enterprise: Why Village Enterprise?
Celeste: I am excited by Village Enterprise’s model because I believe it empowers beneficiaries with the skills, knowledge, structures, and social capital needed to develop and maintain income-generating businesses that will improve their own lives as well as the lives of future generations. I believe that empowering people to be their own change agents as Village Enterprise does is necessary for impactful and sustainable development. Furthermore, Village Enterprise is reaching marginalized rural populations often not reached by international and local NGOs or micro-finance institutions. As an organization, Village Enterprise places a strong priority on maximizing its impact through data-driven decision-making and programming. I am thrilled to bring my skills, experience and knowledge to an organization primed to rigorously monitor, evaluate and improve its programming to ensure the highest possible sustainable impacts for its beneficiaries.
Village Enterprise: Why is extreme poverty a cause you care about?
Celeste: Extreme poverty is a travesty that the world can and should work to end. I believe that everybody who is able should act to alleviate the suffering that people living in extreme poverty face.
Village Enterprise: Coming from a role in a larger international development organization based in Washington, D.C., what do you hope to gain from your new role living in rural Uganda?
Celeste: Living among and visiting the populations Village Enterprise serves is necessary to understand the needs and constraints of our beneficiaries as well as the solutions Village Enterprise implements. This is essential for ensuring the appropriateness of monitoring and evaluation systems and metrics implemented to monitor program implementation and evaluate and learn from results. Living in rural Uganda also allows for development of personal relationships and in-person collaboration with implementing and M&E staff.
Village Enterprise: What challenges do you expect to face?
Celeste: By living and working in rural East Africa, the challenges I expect to face are possibly too numerous to count. To name a few, I expect to face logistical challenges such as intermittent power and internet outages that impede work; cultural barriers to communication; and emotional challenges such as feelings of sadness and despair for the adults and children living in extreme poverty.
Village Enterprise: What aspects of your background and experience do you feel will be most valuable in your role as Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Director?
Celeste: I have a good deal of experience with capacity development pertaining to monitoring, evaluation and learning. I look forward to transferring skills and knowledge to individuals on the M&E team so that as a group we can continue to build-on and refine the rigorous M&E systems Village Enterprise already has in place. Additionally, I expect my education and work experience pertaining to design of monitoring systems, evaluations, analysis, report writing, and database management to directly inform my new role as Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Director.
Village Enterprise: You began your career abroad in Asia and Micronesia, what draws you to Africa?
Celeste: I have worked on initiatives taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2011. The majority of my work in Sub-Saharan Africa has been with youth. Among the populations with whom I have worked I have been impressed and inspired by their demonstrated passion and drive for national and community development. I am so excited to continue working in Sub-Saharan Africa on quality programming that directly empowers rural populations to improve their lives.