Friday, 15.30-17.00 (Academy Hall)

Game Night MERL Tech: Digital Principles edition. Laura Walker McDonald, SIMLab; Jacob Korenblum, Souktel Digital Solutions; Tobias McNulty, Caktus Consulting Group; Alexandra Robinson, USAID; Krista Baptista, DAI; Barbara Willett, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL).
Enjoy a little light relief with a serious purpose… Ever considered using the Principles for Digital Development as evaluation criteria? Help SIMLab and DIAL put this approach to the test. Four contestants represent their programs in MERL Tech’s first game show! You the audience will decide who takes home the prize, but you’re all winners: you’ll leave with a new understanding of how to apply these principles as standards to improve programming and shed light on impact. 

Session Level:

Intermediate, Advanced

Session Details:

Our intention here is threefold:

  • to highlight the need to hold projects to an independent standard;
  • to show that the Principles for Digital Development can be used as criteria against which to evaluate projects; and
  • to promote public sharing of evidence and learning from projects. We will run a fun gameshow, where contestants will tell everyone how one of their projects embodies or lives up to three of the nine Principles.

The winner will be decided by audience participation. Following this, our contestants will have the opportunity to reflect on what the session has provoked – can the Principles be used in this way? What are the challenges? How might they compare to, say, SIMLab’s adapted OECD-DAC criteria? What is the potential of this approach for things like comparable evaluations across multiple projects?

Session Leads:

Laura Walker McDonald, Chief Executive Officer, the Social Impact Lab. Through the Social Impact Lab, Laura supports people and organizations around the world to use inclusive technologies to make systems and services more accessible, responsive, and resilient. Drawing on her expertise in humanitarian aid, human rights law and international development, she brings a cross-disciplinary approach to communications, innovation and information management. Before coming to SIMLab, Laura worked for the British Red Cross on international humanitarian policy and learning, focussed on quality and accountability, innovation, cash transfer programming, civil-military relations, and strategic planning. Laura holds an LL.B (Hons) in Law, French and German from the University of the West of England, Bristol, and an LL.M in International Development Law and Human Rights from Warwick University. Find more about her here, on Twitter @techladylaura or at the Social Impact Lab.

Jacob Korenblum, President & CEO, Souktel Digital Solutions. Jacob leads Souktel’s growing team, building on his past experience managing economic development and emergency relief projects for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Fluent in Arabic and French, Jacob has worked in the aid and development sectors in the Middle East, East Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. He is a frequent panelist on technology and development–with speaking engagements ranging from the GSMA Mobile World Congress to the World Bank Human Development Forum. He has written articles on mobile technology and development for the MIT Innovations Journal, CNBC Online, and UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children” report, among others. His work as a Souktel co-founder has been profiled by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company and the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Jacob holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University, where he also served as a Harvard Reynolds Foundation Fellow in Social Enterprise from 2005-06. Find more about Jacob here, on Twitter @MobileJacob and at Souktel Digital Solutions.

Tobias McNulty, CEO, Caktus Solutions. Tobias is CEO and co-founder of Caktus Group, a leading Django/Python firm that builds web and SMS apps for business and social good. Tobias is a passionate believer in open source and helped build Caktus with the open source ethos in mind. Under Tobias’ leadership, Caktus is consistently at the forefront of new open source technologies designed for social impact. Worldwide firsts include the SMS voter registration system (SmartElect for Libya), an open source SMS platform (RapidSMS for UNICEF), a crowd-sourced political debate platform (Open Debates for PCCC), and a research-based mobile gaming app for HIV medication adherence (Epic Allies with UNC and Duke). Caktus projects have been featured in The Atlantic, Fast Company, the BBC, NPR, Wired Magazine, and International Business Times amongst others. Tobias’ first love remains software development and he enjoys any opportunity to code, whether stepping in on client projects, organizing Django development sprints, or acting as a coach for groups like Django Girls. He also likes long distance cycling (once spending a year to bicycle through South America), making ceramics, and baking bread. Learn more about Tobias here and at Caktus Consulting Group.
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Alexandra Robinson, Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Specialist, Ebola Team, U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID. Alexandra serves as the U.S. Global Development Lab-Center for Digital Development’s M&E Advisor, where she specializes in evaluating digitally-driven development interventions. She began her career managing counter-trafficking operations in Nepal, working for 2.5 years to digitize forensic victim-intake systems, oversee border security interventions, and mobilize intelligence-led investigations. After completing her MSc in International Security & Research at the University of Edinburgh, Alex worked in the private sector as a Senior Consultant at a Big data analytics firm before returning to inescapable development-worker roots. Alexandra first joined USAID as an M&E advisor to the Lab’s Ebola Team where she led the evaluation of interventions advancing internet connectivity, digital health information systems, mobile health, and mobile money in Ebola-affected West Africa. She continues to lead the evaluation of Project Link Monrovia, a groundbreaking partnership with Google to develop metro-fiber infrastructure in Monrovia. Learn more about Alexandra here or at the USAID Global Development Lab.
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Krista Baptista, ICT Team Director, DAI. Ms. Baptista, DAI’s Director of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) integrates digital development activities across DAI’s portfolio of projects and proposals, establishes and cultivates partnerships internally and externally to support the effective use of technology, and manages a team of ICT development specialists. Through speaking and moderating events, the Digital@DAI blog, and as an adjunct professor of Innovations in Digital Development at John’s Hopkins SAIS, she brings lessons learned and insights into applied innovation to on-the-ground development programs. Ms. Baptista serves as Technical Advisor to the multi-year USAID Central America Regional Climate Change Program. She helps the program effectively and sustainably share weather and climate data across the region and supports private sector associations of coffee growers, fisheries, forestry, and hydro-electric companies to use the data for decision making. Ms. Baptista has led USAID projects where she identified and managed IT consultants, managed project staff and subcontractors, produced project deliverables and managed the project budget and performance monitoring plan. She holds a BA from Clark University and a MA from John’s Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS).Learn more about Krista here and at DAI.
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Barbara Willett,Director, Investment Evaluation, DIAL. Barbara Willett is Director of Investment Evaluation at the Digital Impact Alliance. She heads DIAL’s efforts to understand and measure change in – and impact on – the digital development ecosystem. Given the complexity and dynamic nature of this sector, DIAL uses an adaptive and reflective approach to monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). Barbara has been working in the development sector domestically and internationally for over 20 years. She served as Director of MEL for both the American Red Cross (International Services) and Mercy Corps, where she worked for nearly 10 years and which was a MERL Tech co-sponsor in 2015. Barbara received an M.A. in international development from Ohio University and attended Claremont Graduate University’s Advanced Study in Program Evaluation. She has served on the Advisory Committee for InterAction’s Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Working Group, is a member of the American Evaluation Association, and has presented extensively on M&E and agency-level measurement systems within the industry. Learn more about Barbara here and at DIAL.