Carlo Carugi: Globetrotter with a Cause
Carlo knew from his youth precisely what he wanted to do with his life: travel the world, meet people, and help them conserve the environment they depend on. Now looking back on a thirty-year career of environmental work serving the peoples of Niger, Botswana, Vietnam, Cameroun, and all the GEF geographic regions around the world, it would appear that Carlo has more than met his life’s ambitions.
Not that he’s nearly done yet. “Every day is an accomplishment for me. I love my work.”
Carlo’s work is that of a Senior Evaluation Officer for the Independent Evaluation Office, stationed in Washington, D.C. For several years, Carlo has led the office’s country portfolio and other major evaluations, most notably employing a rigorous methodology he created, called systematic triangulation.
It’s a method Carlo compares to that of a historian. “What do historians do? They check for sources. They check to confirm that something that was said to have happened, indeed happened. It’s much the same for systematic triangulation. You confirm your findings by checking different sources and methods to see if they give the same answer to the question.”
And if they don’t? “You go back to the drawing board,” says Carlo—which, he emphasizes, is often a good thing. “What’s interesting about this methodology is that most of the time what happens is that you discover things you were not initially questioning. You learn additional evaluative lessons. It’s all very insightful and stimulating.”
Born in a small town in the farm country of northern Italy, Carlo followed his early interests in agricultural science to a graduate degree in Bologna, which soon led to his first assignment volunteering his help in a small farming village in Niger. There, in one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, Carlo helped the farmers dig new wells, preserve their dwindling forests, reclaim their land, and fight the inexorable encroachment of the desert. His findings in the harsh environs of Niger would resonate in his work with small-scale farming cultures around the world: Those farmers seeing the best yields were those who were the most efficient with their water, their land, their crops and livestock. “When mankind needs to deal with scarce resources, mankind makes the best use of it. Without resources, you’re dead.”
Thus began Carlo’s globe-trotting work toward helping communities make the most efficient and sustainable use of their land. His wife and young family soon came to follow him in his travels, living with him in faraway villages, sharing the rich cultural experience of life in foreign places. It wasn’t long before his three-year-old son Leonardo was coming home from school in Botswana, speaking and singing in Setswana. “We had to have our maid translate what he was telling us.”
In 2009, Carlo’s evaluation expertise led him to the GEF’s Independent Evaluation Office in Washington, D.C., completing the career chain from volunteer worker in villages of developing countries, to the senior evaluation officer of the highest office in the land.
Carlo has settled well in Washington. His two boys are grown (the youngest graduating from college in June), and his wife Paola serves as press officer at the Italian Embassy. A lifelong musician, Carlo plays guitar and keyboards in a local D.C. band, covering Italian pop/rock tunes for clubs and fundraisers.
The nomadic lifestyle may be no more, but the passion for travel remains. When he’s not travelling for work, he’s travelling for leisure, “whenever there is a possibility to visit an interesting place and meet the people who live there.”