The summer session for the dissertation of the Masters’ theses has begun at the IUS. Ramy Boulos, a young biomedical engineer from Egypt enrolled at Sophia from September 2012, after having chosen to specialize in Political Studies, he presented his finished work, edited in English, to the commission and collegues in this course: “Monitoring and Evaluation Systems: Rethinking, Recovering and Reconciling of Current Practices” – Daniela Ropelato (Political science) and Benedetto Gui (Political economy), followed his research.
“From the revolution in the square to the revolution of wisdom”: these are the first words with which Ramy introduced his work in the crowded great Hall. These may seem rather daring words, but they correspond to a real journey taken: “the walk of my life and my studies.”
“The observation and the evaluation of the results are, as always, costitutive conditions of scientific methods. A prodrome that is found in ancietn Egypt was the invention of the ‘nilometer’ with which to measure the height of the Nile river so as to forecast the development of agricultural crops, to decide what the yearly taxes were to be. When, as a biomedical engineeer, I studied in the intensive care units, I realized the importance of constant monitoring of the patient’s signs, where a person’s life was in the balance. When I involved myself in the social and political development of my country, out of personal passion, a few months before coming to Sophia, the questions made a comeback: how does one measure the results of a social project? How does one evaluate the work of a group of people and the use of their tools? How does one judge an economic or political system, and whether the resources are used in an efficacius and efficient way? For instance, such as when one spends thousands of euros for an international conference in which one discusses the problem of hunger in a small African country!?”.
Although the challenge may have seemed hard, the research undertaken offered a precise indication: a technical topic like policy evaluation may constitute a suitable area in which to prove the relationship on a plain open to those values that constitute the human, which represents the heart of Sophia’s cultural experience.
This study brought into focus a specific monitoring and evaluation model, the one most used by the greater part of scholars in the field of international organizations for the analysis of public policy making, in which necessary data is systematically gathered in order to provide to interested parties the observations and indications on the state of things, on the follow up of objectives and utilization of funds, so as to be able to express a judgement on efficiency, efficacy, impact, and sustainability of a project.
Beginning with the debate around such a model, by using some sociological approaches of social research – between positivism and anti-positivism, functionalism, conflict theory, theory of median range – the candidate was able to bring to light the urgency of overcoming a merely quantitative or qualitative prospective: the risk is that of dividing the function from the meaning of the exercise. For this reason, it would be helpful to include other areas of knowledge and to give a central place to the individual and his networks of relationships in social research as well.
Following this pathway, the monitoring and evaluationg systems will also be able to give greater space to some essential values proclaimed out loud, values of transparency and responsibility – of accountability - on the part of those who finance projects as well as those who administer them, making them tools to combat corruption, tools of maturation of a social conscience, of control and redressing mistakes.