MY BIOGRAPHY

My identity and current foci

I am a South African scientist, evaluator and impact specialist, currently based in Geneva. But South Africa is home.

I work across the world at the request of bi- and multilateral, government and non-government organizations, foundations, think-tanks and universities, and/or their networks, partnerships and coalitions.

I design, support implementation, and evaluate policies, strategies, portfolios and programmes aimed at incremental change, structural reforms, systems change and/or urgently needed transformations.

I do so with a perspective on trajectories rather than static snapshots of progress. I therefore track global shifts, trends and risks, and their implications for our possible futures. I move easily between the macro and micro, yet always with the 'big picture' in mind.

I study “change”, and what “success” really means in getting to appropriately scaled, lasting and, where required, transformative impacts. To do this, I combine my practical experience with insights from evaluative thinking and practice, systems and complexity sciences, neurobiology, biomimicry, as well as natural and futures sciences. I use AI only where this adds value.

I engage deeply with (i) the interests, cultures, contexts and knowledge systems of the Global South, and their connections with the Global North; (ii) the interdependencies between humanity and the natural world; and (iii) the necessary changes or transformations in systems and the accompanying narratives.

I prioritise two areas of work: (i) efforts to address environmental destruction and climate change and their consequences, and (ii) support for societies’ efforts to escape the poverty and other traps that prevent them from following a positive development trajectory.

As South African citizen I focus on the Global South and esp. on 'my continents', Africa and Asia. I care deeply about injustice, about treating all lives as equal, and about the urgency with which we have to live in harmony with one another and with nature. I believe in the imperative of decolonising mindsets, theories and practices, and helped initiate what is today known as 'Made in Africa Evaluation' (MAE). But I also easily bridge - and blend - different cultures, perspectives and ideologies.

My experience

I have worked from local to global level in the development, philanthropic and research sectors, with on-the-ground experience in around 40 countries on five continents.

I have experience in more than 30 thematic areas as diverse as the environment, climate change, agrifood systems, rural-urban development, biotechnology, disaster risk management, child labour, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, entrepreneurship, South-South cooperation, knowledge management, national innovation systems and research excellence.

I have served in many advisory capacities for UN, philanthropic, academic and other international organisations and initiatives, including UNDP, CGIAR, GAVI, IFAD, AGRA, UN-REDD, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Blue Marble Evaluation and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2022-2023 I was engaged full-time by the Mastercard Foundation as Senior Impact Resident/Senior Advisor for the framing, design and impact work of their newly established Pan-African Programmes. Most recently I was appointed to represent South Africa on the High-Level Evaluation Advisory Committee of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).

Leadership positions held in the past include President of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), Vice-President of global evaluation associations IOCE and IDEAS, the first American Evaluation Association (AEA) Board Member living outside the US, Lead Steward in the SDG Transformations Forum, and first International Evaluation Academy (IEAc) Council Chair.

I design, write, blog, facilitate, mentor, guide, shape and present (including 10 national and international keynotes to date). I am a holder of one of the prestigious Richard von Weizsäcker Fellowships of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, and was a Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS). I led modules in development effectiveness at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo and in evaluation at Geneva University. I was a Visiting Professor at Hiroshima University, Honorary Professor at Stellenbosch University and have had editorial (advisory) roles in four evaluation journals.

I often combine my practice with my expertise in research and knowledge management, and working with scientific evidence in both natural and social sciences. Before turning to evaluation, I was a grants portfolio manager in a South African science council (FRD/NRF), and later the Director of Research at the University of Pretoria in South Africa responsible for all grants and contract research, intellectual property management and international agreements.

Find me on

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/zendaofir
My website:  https://zendaofir.com
Twitter / X:  @ZendaOfir

For my comprehensive CV, please contact zenda@evalnet.co.za.

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