M&E Squared: Monitoring & evaluating MERL technologies. Alexandra Robinson, USAID; Sutyajeet Soneja, USAID; Molly Chen, RTI
The momentous uptake of digital technology is changing MERL practices across the development enterprise. Mobile data collection platforms, satellite imagery, remote sensors, and other emerging technologies are increasingly used to monitor and evaluate development programs. Simultaneously, development programs are emerging in which implementing MERL technology is the primary intervention. But how do we conduct M&E when MERL Tech is the intervention?
Each small group will work collaboratively to address the complex considerations of monitoring and evaluating a real-life MERLTech case study using a structured handout.
After completing the case study exercise, small groups will present their findings and facilitators will guide a discussion of the common challenges, strategies, and questions generated. Finally, after reviewing the completed case study templates and workshop notes, the facilitators will synthesize findings in a concise written brief for participants and the larger MERLTech audience within two weeks. Participants will be able to assess and develop appropriate M&E strategies for MERLTech interventions.
Outline of Session Flow:
1) Introduction to MERLTech Interventions (PowerPoint presentation, 15-20 minutes)
-Categories of MERLTech interventions (Geospatial, Health Information Systems (mHero, DHIS2), Platforms (CommCare, RapidPro, U-Report)
-Existing best practices and examples of evidence generation
-Evidence gaps and challenges (including facilitators’ personal examples in their real-life work)
-Presenting 3 case studies- overview
2) Small group exercise- 4-5 people per group (40 minutes)
Provide template for group to discuss following questions:
-What metrics would you use to measure the effectiveness of your intervention? (Mapping of linkage between MERLTech and development outcomes)
-What levels and types of data and evidence are needed to demonstrate effectiveness? -What methodology would you use to evaluate effectiveness?
-How would you conduct monitoring? How could you build in feedback loops to enable continuous learning and adaptation?
-How will the needs and experiences of users be considered when monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness and sustainability of the MERLTech?
-What limitations, challenges, and constraints might you face in evaluating the MERLTech application?
3) Small Group Read-Outs & Discussion (20-25 minutes) Using your pathways of change map, talk through decision making around metrics, types of evidence, and methods
-What are the key challenges and constraints that emerged through this case study?
-How would you address and mitigate these challenges?
4) Wrap-up (5 minutes) Common themes based on small-group read-out
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.
Sutyajeet I. Soneja, PhD, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID. Sutyajeet is a Science & Technology Policy Fellow via the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he is serving as a Senior Impact Assessment Advisor within USAID evaluating the efficacy of programs related to disease surveillance in West Africa. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and has conducted interdisciplinary research projects in low-resource settings and has high proficiency and years of experience in the fields of engineering, environmental health, epidemiology, air pollution, international field research, risk assessment, and translating science into policy. He has also published numerous academic articles and presented to a wide-array of audiences. His lifelong goal is to visit all 7 continents, and has only 1 left to go. Find out more about Sutyajeet’s fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Molly Chen, Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, Learning, and Adapting (MERLA) Specialist, RTI International. Since starting her career managing a mobile women’s health clinic in California, Molly has never stopped finding ways to explore the world while helping communities. With previous experience as a grassroots economic development volunteer in Peace Corps Suriname, project manager and compliance specialist at Chemonics International in the Asia and Afghanistan regions, and a monitoring and evaluation specialist at FHI 360 on the Mobile Solutions Technical Assistance & Research Project (mSTAR), Molly is excited to reconnect with global health issues through her current position at RTI International as a Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, Learning, and Adapting (MERLA) Specialist. Molly’s passion is leading participatory, collaborative, and grounded program design to build the foundation for development projects. She’s on a mission to expand the MERLA world, one program logic model at a time. More about Molly here or at RTI International.