Use of reference (or advisory) groups is an approach in the profession of evaluation that supports peer review and quality assurance good practice. Over the last year, CAS Secretariat engaged various successive panels of peer reviewers for the evaluative reviews and evaluations it has coordinated. To create consistency and efficiency, and enhance our accountability to stakeholders, CAS Secretariat is piloting a standing, technical evaluation reference group, to serve as a sounding board to CAS Secretariat, and a standing peer review panel for commissioned evaluations. On a pilot basis, CAS has engaged eminent experts who offer deep evaluation experience in both research and development settings, to reflect CGIAR’s Research for Development nature. The evaluation reference group will provide state-of-the-art peer-review, in support of meeting CGIAR System’s needs for rigorous, high-quality independent evaluations to inform decision-making.
In its pilot phase and to support delivery of the CAS Secretariat evaluation 2021 workplan, reference group members will review inception and evaluation reports in the two concurrent CGIAR Platform evaluations: Big Data in Agriculture and Excellence in Breeding. CAS staff are also calling on the reference group to be a sounding board to test some of the ideas in the ongoing revisions to CGIAR’s 2012 Evaluation Policy , which will be presented to the Strategic Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Committee for input and System Council for decision in the near future.
 Also called “advisory” or “consultation” groups, see for instance https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/4a95fffb56934e50ade682b1b7c90d0b/download/; https://www.betterevaluation.org/en/evaluation-options/advisory_group
The reference group includes the four members below:
Zenda Ofir is a full-time South African evaluator and scientist. With a Ph.D. in (Ecological) Chemistry, she was a grants portfolio manager in a National Science Council and Director of Research at the University of Pretoria before turning to evaluation. Since 2000 she has worked across the world from local to global level, with a special focus on Africa and Asia.
A former President of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), she has been visiting professor at Hiroshima University, Honorary Professor at Stellenbosch University, and for several years presented the Aid Effectiveness module at the United Nations University in Tokyo. She is a Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, and interim Chair of the Council of the International Evaluation Academy (IEAc).
She has a special interest in the intersection of humanity and nature, the decolonization of development and of evaluation, and in how to accelerate progress towards urgently needed large-scale transformations.
Sonal Zaveri has over 30 years’ experience in strategic planning, program design, capacity building, mentoring, and evaluation. She has a Ph.D. in Social Work and was a Fleishman Fellow at Duke University, USA. She has worked in more than 25 countries in Asia, Asia-Pacific, and Central Asia, East and West Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe at grassroots, sub-national, national, regional, and international levels bringing a broad contextual experience.
She holds regional and global leadership positions - founder and board member of Community of Evaluators South Asia; coordinator of the Gender & Equity Network South Asia (GENSA); co-chair EvalGender+, member of the EvalPartners Coordination Committee, board member of the International Evaluation Academy (IEAc), and a core member of the South to South Evaluation (S2SE), which addresses asymmetries in global evaluation.
Sonal’s interests relate to how rights, participation, transformation, and gender are addressed through collaborative, culturally responsive, and learning-oriented evaluation approaches, and methodologies.
Professor Guy Poppy served as the UK’s Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) Chief Scientific Adviser from 2014 to 2020. He continues with his research in global food security at the University of Southampton, where he is Professor of ecology and directs interdisciplinary research as the Associate Vice President. He was appointed Companion of the Order of Bath (CB) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021.
He has significant research experience in food systems and food security and has advised governments around the world on these issues. He is currently a member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) panel assessing the quality of agriculture, food, and veterinary science in the UK, having previously served on the REF2014 panel. He is a graduate of Imperial College and Oxford University, and previously worked at Rothamsted Research.
He focuses on connecting science to users and has pushed for scientists to be intelligent providers to intelligent customers of science.
Dr. Ogunyinka, a Resource Economist by training is a Senior Research Fellow and Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation Specialist at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom. He has had a long association with the CGIAR system dating back to early 1991 to 2006 while working with IITA, Ibadan Nigeria as the Head of the then Monitoring and Evaluation Unit.
With a Ph.D in program evaluation, Dr. Ogunyinka’s 35 year’s evaluation experience cuts across sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia and includes a range of large-scale, multi-country program, process, performance, and impact evaluations. This covers impact assessment, agricultural value chain analysis, research, and capacity building covering the broad areas of rural livelihood improvement systems, food security, poverty alleviation, and natural resources management.
His main evaluation interests include methodological issues and learning.