Dr Ian Goldman
In a career that spans 39 years, Dr Ian Goldman has worked in 18 different countries, contributed to some of Africa's pioneering projects in rural development, was a founder of the European Rural NGO Network, VIRGIL, and advised on community-driven development and sustainable livelihoods in his homeland.
He currently works as Acting Deputy-Director General (DDG), in South Africa's Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), responsible for the national evaluation system, research, data and knowledge management.
Given Ian's considerable knowledge and experience it's not surprising that he is often called upon as a public speaker to share his thoughts on a variety of topics. One of his most recent talks took him in a full circle, back to where his career started in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, as he gave a talk to current students entitled: "Do government institutions learn and if so, how? Examples from South Africa."
As a student he studied BSc Soil Science, subsidiary Agronomy (1975-8), before going on to do an MSc in Tropical Agricultural Development - Crops Option (1979-1980). So, following his visit we caught with him to find out more about his interesting and varied career; starting with his time at Reading.
"I enjoyed my time at Reading it was formative work-wise and I met my wife Judy in my first year there, and we're still together and very much in love, all this time later! The courses were good and soils/agriculture is a good grounding for development work, with scientific, geographical, economic aspects and very practical. It was the best place to study soil science in fact!" he said.
"I also had the opportunity to do a placement between BSc and MSC as I got a DFID (Department for International Development) scholarship with a year in Mexico. It was extremely beneficial as it enabled me to have practical agronomy experience, and also to live for a year in a fascinating country with which I still have contact with, 38 years later.
"My goal was always to work in development overseas. I've had many different phases of working along the way; starting with agriculture, then rural development, decentralisation and local development, community-driven development and action-learning, to evaluation as a system for learning in government.
"I started my career working on farming systems research for small farmers in Mexico as a soils/agronomist. I then moved to Zambia in the 80's. That enabled me to work on an integrated rural development programme in Mpika, Zambia, a pioneering project set up to strengthen the capacity of local government to plan and implement a decentralised rural development programme.
"It was the first IRDP to transform to a district development programme focusing on developing the capacity of local government. It was a great success and led to a change in the approach to rural development and decentralisation of DFID and other donors. I learnt a considerable amount about agricultural and rural development, grounded me in a deep rural African culture, exposed me to working as a facilitator, which paved the way for much of future work. I also had my two daughters in Zambia, a great joy in my life."
In 1988 Ian returned to the UK to join the National Rural Enterprise Centre (NREC), a non-government organisation (NGO) working in rural economic development, and part of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. He explains: "My work at the NREC included the establishment and management of a national rural information service and local economic development projects in various parts of the UK. I ended up as NREC's Director, responsible for restructuring the Centre, which I led back to profitability. During that time I was a founder of the European Rural NGO Network, VIRGIL, and also the first coordinator of the network, which involved a lot of work with members across Europe and the European Commission."
Ian's next step took him back to South Africa (SA) as a Management Adviser with the Free State Minister of Agriculture shortly after the democratic elections of 1994, a very exciting period in South Africa. His work included the reform of the rural sector, shifting focus from the support of 15,000 white commercial farmers to a diverse group, consisting of 300,000 farmworkers, emerging black farmers and land reform beneficences, as well as working with and supporting the non-farm rural economy.
He said: "The role brought together my experience in Zambia of agricultural development and facilitating change, experience of agricultural diversification and working with the non-farm rural economy in the UK."
The Free State project finished in 1998, and passionate about improving lives, Ian founded a collectively owned company Khanya-managing rural change which later was transformed into an NGO Khanya-aicdd (African Institute for Community Driven Development), with the aim of promoting effective links between citizens and the state, particularly in rural development. He became CEO, promoting action-learning partnerships between national, provincial and local government and NGOs to transform development systems in Africa, including community-based participatory planning (CBP) processes, community-based service models in agriculture, health and local economic development.
He continues: "Through Khanya-aicdd I was able to bring together much of my experience of working with different levels of government, to facilitate rural change. I loved the participatory planning work, and CBP was applied across around 10% of South Africa and half of Uganda, as well as in Zimbabwe. I also really enjoyed facilitating strategic processes in countries across Southern and Eastern Africa."
Ian left Kyanya-aicdd in October 2009 to become Team Leader of an EU-funded Monitoring and Learning Facility on Pro-Poor Policy with South Africa's Presidency, focusing on promoting evidence-based policy making. A secondment followed in 2010 as he supported the development of a new Department in the Presidency, DPME, which he went to join as staff in 2011. A key moment for Ian during this time was being asked to develop a national evaluation policy, after which he was asked to establish the National Evaluation System in South Africa. The country is now an international leader in evaluation, with evaluations happening at both national and provincial level.
Over the years' Ian has developed numerous specialties, including: strategic planning, evaluation, action learning, decentralisation, change management, local economic development, rural development, community-driven development, and sustainable livelihoods. But today, his focus is on running the national evaluation system for SA, and more recently establishing systems to support generation and use of evidence and knowledge.
"I am committed to creating a new (evaluation) system which has the ability to change development outcomes in SA. We have already seen significant change. One of my biggest achievements to-date, has been establishing a national evaluation system that is evaluating UK 1 billion pounds of government programmes in SA, and has become one of the well-known evaluation systems internationally. It has been a very rewarding job, operating at an altogether different scale than in his NGO days, with top levels of government and Cabinet."
Ian was made Acting DDG of the Evidence and Knowledge Systems Branch in July 2017, but in addition to his role at DPME, he has also been a board member (commissioner) of 3ie since 2012. 3is is an international grant-making organisation promoting impact evaluation and evidence-informed development policies and programmes. He explains: "The organisation is a global leader in funding and producing high-quality evidence of what works, how, why and at what cost in international development. Being involved in such funding was very important to me as the organisation believes that better and policy-relevant evidence will make development more effective and improve people's lives. Through 3ie, I have had valuable exposure to the international evaluation scene, and been able to contribute with my practical experience of implementing an evaluation system in government."
He continues, "At the same time, Judy and I became involved in Biodanza, a system of music, movement and dance, where we both qualified as facilitators. Biodanza is the Dance of Life, a dance-based integrative system concerned with whole health, human potential, education and social change. Their work impacts on the wellbeing of individuals and groups and is supported by scientific theory and research. Due to its multidisciplinary nature, it also has much to offer to clinical, community, education, environmental and corporate organisations. It's very rewarding. But now the biggest change is that I'm a grandfather of little Lilija and I can't believe how powerful a feeling that is."
In recent years Ian has started teaching and now lectures in planning, monitoring and evaluation at the University of Cape Town, trains the top levels of the public service in evidence-informed policy-making and gives regular talks on evaluation, evidence-based policy around the world.