Cosmo Takagi may be a young professional, but he has a determination to change the world that could rival the most senior evaluator. While working as a public servant for five and half years in Japan, Cosmo realized that the local government policies were not on par with the global environment for evaluation. He felt the need to make a change in his local government, but first he decided to participate in the Executive Leadership Programme in Evaluation and the SDGs during its first session in New York.
“[I wanted to participate in this programme] because in Japan, especially in the local government, the evaluation has not been working. We do not scale the impact of evaluation or include the policy based on the evaluation. We check the efficiency and effectiveness from an audit perspective.”
Cosmo felt that the local Japanese government is not using the evaluation of SDGs to its full potential. “I noticed this problem, and I decided to learn about the SDGs and how to use the SDGs in the local government policy from the perspective of evaluation.”
He emphasized that the methods and approaches taught in the ELPE are essential to improve evaluation in Japan. From the online training, Cosmo learned the basic knowledge on the SDGs, while in the face-to-face training he learned more about practical approaches. The lecture by Michael Quinn Patton on the Leadership for transformative change in the SDGs era particularly influenced Cosmo. He stated, “We need to recognize that leaders are required for evaluative thinking”.
While Cosmo did have exposure to several of the evaluation approaches prior to the ELPE, he felt that his knowledge and ability to apply the methods significantly expanded since his participation in the programme. But not only did the lectures and online courses influence him, Cosmo also attributed his most significant change in his professional life to the conversations with the fellow participants. The programme allowed several opportunities for the participants to share their own experiences and best practices for evaluation in their own country.
“During the course, we talked often amongst the other participants of the ELPE. Before the ELPE, I didn’t think about SDG evaluation. Gradually, with my colleagues in the class we exchanged our knowledge and opinions. It was very effective to talk with the other colleagues from all over [the world]. We shared knowledge, and I was inspired, so I decided to start the SDG evaluation in Japan. They are also working on the SDG evaluation in their [respective] countries.”
The follow-up mentorship with Deborah Rugg also made a significant change to the development of his project and his career choices. Cosmo felt “inspired by her work” such as when she addressed the UN resolution of the SDGs in 2015 as the UNEG chair.
Not even a year after the ELPE has passed, yet Cosmo has already made a few accomplishments towards his goal to improve evaluation for the SDGs in Japan. Since the ELPE, Cosmo has organized several workshops on the SDGs with staff from the local government as well as workers in Non-Profit Organizations and seminars with 30 participants each for senior level government and students. Cosmo has also established an NGO, called SDGs-SWY, to promote the action for achieving the SDGs by younger generations. With his fellow NGO volunteers, they created material on the Japanese local government’s initiatives towards the SDGs and distributed it at the High Level Political Forum in July 2018. He also wrote a two-page article titled “SDGs brings opportunities to the local governments” in the International Development Journal, one of the most famous magazines among the development professionals in Japan, to spread public awareness on the 2030 Agenda as well as published seven articles on the same subject for a New York based newspaper targeting the Japanese community, which distributes 20,000 copies each issue.
When asked where he would be today had he not participated in the ELPE, Cosmo stated “maybe I would not have started this project but would have continued to work as a public servant in Japan. I would not have come to Geneva or New York City or even started the PhD.” “In Japan, a public servant has a tenure. It is a stable life. But I decided to challenge myself with this adventure because of the ELPE. It was a life-changing event that has a big meaning in my life. My PhD is in global governance, which I decided to do after I graduated from the Master course, but maybe if I didn’t participate in the ELPE I would not have done the PhD because it requires a lot of time and energy. The ELPE was the push to quit my job and start the PhD. My passion to take part in the ELPE was realized by the chance to participate in the Tobitate! (Leap for Tomorrow) Young Ambassador Program, a Japanese public-private partnership scholarship.”
The biggest project Cosmo is planning has yet to come. After speaking to the Dean of his university about his story and experience in the ELPE, Cosmo is working to organize and mobilize the budget to invite his ELPE mentor, an expert on evaluation and the SDGs, to give a lecture to university students as well as hold a seminar with professionals in local government and civil society. Through these actions, he is seriously trying to root the evaluation culture in Japan. Thanks to the discussions with fellow colleagues, experts on evaluation and his mentor, Cosmo’s experience at the ELPE fostered an agent of change determined to tackle the challenges of evaluation for the SDGs in his home country and abroad.