Zenda Ofir is a South African scientist and independent international evaluation specialist. With a PhD in (Ecological) Chemistry, she works on the interface of evaluation, research and development, with a special focus on Africa and Asia, on the intersection of humanity and nature, and on how to accelerate and evaluate progress towards large-scale transformative change.
Since becoming a full-time evaluation specialist in 2000, Zenda has had a special focus on evaluation in the Global South. She is a systems thinker with a belief in the importance of complexity concepts for sustainable, durable development. She has engaged in strategies and evaluations from local to global level in over 50 diverse fields of work such as poverty reduction, food production, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, conservation, leadership, networks, organisational development, research for development, child labour, and interreligious and intercultural dialogue. She has visited more than 80 and has worked on assignment in more than 40 countries, contracted by international organisations, UN bodies, philanthropic foundations, government agencies, science councils and universities. She has advised many international organisations on evaluation policy, strategy or practice, including as member of the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) of CGIAR, and of International Evaluation Advisory Panels of UNDP, the global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). She has been a core advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation evaluation office and a Special Advisor on Knowledge Management to the Executive of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in Switzerland. She is also a reviewer for evaluations of UNDP, the Austrian Development Agency and DFID EQuALS.
Zenda is a Vice-President of the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), Lead Steward in the Transforming Evaluations group (TE-ST) of the SDG Transformations Forum, a member of the Steering Committee of the South-to-South Evaluation (S2E) Initiative. She is also a former President of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), former Vice-President of the International Organisation for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), former Board Member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), and the founder of the South African Evaluation Network which led to the South African M&E Association, SAMEA. She has been a visiting professor at the Centre for International Cooperation in Education at the University of Hiroshima, and a fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). From 2009 to 2011 she delivered the Aid Effectiveness module of the International Cooperation and Development course of the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo.
During the decade 1990-2000, Zenda was first a senior programme manager in a South African national science council (now the National Research Foundation / NRF) where she was responsible for six national grant funding portfolios aimed at strengthening research as well as research-industry collaborative ventures among 21 South African universities with private sector partners. Her portfolios included biotechnology, food production and food security, veterinary science, rural and urban development, and institutional research capacity strengthening in what was then still ten so-called ‘historically black universities’. In 1996 she was appointed as Director of Research at the University of Pretoria, at the time South Africa’s largest residential research university, where she was responsible for all research, including grant funded programmes, industry-university cooperation, contract research and intellectual property management. She was also responsible for the International Affairs Office of the University.
In 2014, Zenda was appointed as Honorary Professor (similar to “Professor in Practice”) at the School for Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University. In 2019 she was invited to join the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin as Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow. She serves on the editorial advisory boards of the African Evaluation Journal (AEJ) and Evaluation and Program Planning (EPP), and is co-editor of the International Developments section of the American Journal of Evaluation (AJE). She is also a widely read blogger on Evaluation for Development.
Zenda is currently based near Geneva in Switzerland.