Organizers and Steering Committee

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MERL Tech DC 2019 is organized by Kurante and sponsored by DevResults, IMC Worldwide, Esri, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), Synergy International Systems, and FHI 360.

See below for more information about our 2019 Organizing Team and Steering Committee.

MERL Tech Organizers

Linda Raftree co-founded MERL Tech in 2014. She is the lead organizer of the conference and related MERL Tech efforts. Additionally, Linda supports strategy, program design, research, and ethical uses of technology and digital data in the social sector, both internationally and domestically. This includes supporting organizations to develop and implement responsible data policies, guidelines, practices, and data governance that pays special attention on how digital safeguarding and data privacy affects girls, women, and other historically marginalized or vulnerable groups and how organizations can address capacity gaps at various levels. Linda runs Technology Salon in New York City and participates on a number of technology advisory groups and steering committees related to ethical data and technology. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, she worked for 16 years with Plan International. Linda has published on the intersection of digital technology and adolescent girls, child/youth migration, youth workforce development, monitoring and evaluation, and digital safeguarding and ethics. She is the co-author of Emerging Opportunities: Monitoring and Evaluation in a Tech-Enabled World with Michael Bamberger. Linda blogs at Wait… What? and tweets as @meowtree. See Linda’s full bio here.

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Wayan Vota is a co-founder of MERL Tech and Kurante. He is on the forefront of utilizing new and emerging technologies to magnify the intent of communities to accelerate their social and economic development. Wayan has worked at FHI360’s Tech Lab, Development Gateway, Inveneo, The World Bank and Mercy Corps where altogether he created holistic nationwide programmes in 11 countries. He has co-developed and organized multiple conferences to showcase technology’s promise, including Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, Fail Festival, and ICT4Drinks. Wayan publishes ICTworks, the premier online community of technology for development practitioners. Wayan co-taught the inaugural Masters-level class on Technology and Innovation for Development at Johns Hopkins University, using the Principles of Digital Development as a framework to showcase the opportunities and challenges of implementing technology-based international development interventions. See Wayan’s full bio here and follow him on Twitter at @wayan_vota.

Jana Melpolder has been working in ICT4D since 2012 and got her start working for Inveneo, World Possible, and ICTworks. For several years she managed Technology Salons in San Francisco and previously worked for Equal Access International, AREWA24, and Metrics for Management. Today she is the Communications and Marketing Lead at Engineering for Change and recently joined Harper Hill Global as its Social Media Manager. She has reported on development programs from several countries including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand, and India, and she has served as an Editorial Intern at U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Her writing has been published on World Vision, Beliefnet, and Twitter’s “Twitter for Good” blog. Jana’s educational background includes a B.A. in Anthropology from West Virginia University and a Master of International Development from the University of Pittsburgh.

MERL Tech Steering Committee

Michael Bamberger has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the London School of Economics. He has 45 years of experience in development evaluation including 23 years with the World Bank where worked on development evaluation, evaluation training for the Asia region and gender and development. Since retiring from the Bank he has worked as an independent consultant on development evaluation with 10 UN agencies as well as with development banks, bilateral aid agencies, NGOs and foundations. Michael has advised the Evaluation Office of the Rockefeller Foundation, is a member of the International Evaluation Advisory Panel of the Independent Evaluation Office of UNDP, and is a member of UN Women’s Evaluation Advisory Panel. He is also on the editorial board of a number of leading evaluation journals. Recent publications include RealWorld Evaluation: Working under Budget, Time, Data and Political Constraints (2012); Introduction to Mixed Methods in Impact Evaluation (2012); How to Design and Manage Equity Focused Evaluations (2011); Emerging Opportunities: Monitoring and Evaluation in a TechEnabled World (2014); Dealing with Complexity in Development Evaluation (2016); and Integrating Big Data into the Monitoring and Evaluation of Development Programs (2016).

Kerry Bruce, DrPH, is the CEO and founder of of Clear Outcomes, a company that aims to draw on her 25+ years of experience working in the for-profit and non-profit sectors of development and more than 20 years of living in Asia and Africa. Kerry is a recognized global health expert and has managed large implementation projects on several continents. A recognized leader in the ICT field, Kerry has been spearheading the use of big data in project design, monitoring and evaluation for the field, is a regular guest lecturer for TechChange, and has been a co-organizer of the MERL Tech conference. She is an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University’s International Health Department and teaches courses in mHealth and Implementation Science.

Riccardo de Marchi Trevisan is an International Development professional with more than a decade of successful experience in managing projects and relationships with governments, nonprofits, and multilateral organizations. He currently works in the Nonprofit and International Organization team at Esri, the global leader of GIS. When he is not supporting the use of GIS to make the world a smarter and better place to live, Riccardo enjoys a good Netflix binge, but can also be found in the kitchen preparing traditional Italian meals, or playing with his kids. Riccardo previously sat on the Board of the Colon Cancer Alliance and was the Chair of the Society of International Development’s ICT Working Group.

Valentine (“Val”) J Gandhi is the Co Founder and Head –  Data Innovation, Evaluation and Tech4Good. Val is an Implementation Scientist, Development Economist, Policy Advisor, Poverty and Livelihood Impact Evaluation Specialist, ICT4D and Knowledge Manager, currently based between Jakarta and Nairobi, with over 18 years of interdisciplinary, quantitative and qualitative research, teaching/training and project management, M&E, Strategic consulting, knowledge sharing and capacity building and development experience at both field and policy level with various UN, CGIAR and Donor agencies. He is the founder of the think tank The Development CAFE. He actively promotes innovation in M&E and Research. He was most recently Senior Advisor on Technology for Development, Innovation and Evaluation for The World Bank’s Social, Rural, Urban Resilience Unit and  currently is Principal Consultant on Evaluation,  Innovation and ICT4D for LTS International part of the NIRAS Group. More about Val here.

Arshak Hovanesian is a Director of Business Development at Synergy International Systems, a global software company and the provider of the Indicata monitoring and evaluation platform. Throughout his decade-long career at Synergy, he has been the architect of numerous strategic deals that have enabled development organizations and governments to solve critical problems and achieve beneficial social impact through information technology. An expert in monitoring and evaluation, enterprise software, and global affairs, Arshak has advised nonprofits, governments, and donors in more than 15 countries worldwide on issues at the nexus of data, measurement, digital transformation, and institutional reform. He earned his M.A. in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and his B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.  

Maliha Khan is an international development practitioner who focuses on dealing with issues of complexity in measurement and accountability systems; designing initiatives for social change, and leading organizational change processes. An expert in ethical issues and data, she led the Oxfam confederation-wide “Responsible Data Policy”, one of the first policies of its kind in any development organization, approved in 2015. She has also advised other organizations on responsible data policy and practice, including helping to develop the policy for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). She is the founder of Daira, a boutique client centered start-up that specializes on enabling organizations to make better decisions using data, analysis, and insights for international development. See Maliha’s full bio here and follow her on Twitter at @malihkhan.

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Michael Klein, a director of IMC USA, has led more than a dozen assignments promoting the use of technology in the development space, including delivering evaluations of ICT4D programs. Mike helps development organizations adopt and deploy technology within their programs and better understand the impact they can make using new technologies. He works with partners to streamline data flows and analysis systems, as well as facilitate access to key information. This work has been executed for a wide array of partners in more than 40 countries and includes ICT4D and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) focused engagements, such as program and organizational evaluations; organizational deployment of ICT-based M&E systems; mobile data collection via online forms, SMS, IVR and other tools; project monitoring and indicator development; and M&E system design and strategy development. In addition, Mike is a member of the American Evaluation Association and the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP). Mike is also a regular guest lecturer and has spoken at the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, as well as for more development and data centric organizations such as TechChange. See Mike’s full bio here.

Mala Kumar is a tech for social good practitioner who currently heads the Open Source for Good program in GitHub’s Social Impact team. Prior to joining GitHub, Mala worked for more than a decade with various agencies of the UN, including UNICEF and WFP, along with other international development organizations. She has led the UX research and design of more than 15 software packages, apps, and websites for the industry throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the States. Separate to her work, Mala is an internationally recognized published novelist. She regularly speaks at conferences and authors articles on UX for social good, ICT4D, and intersectionality. Find Mala online here.

Aasit Nanavati is the Director of Partnerships at DevResults, focusing on strategy and client development for the monitoring and evaluation platform. Having served the international development sector for the past decade and an epidemiologist by training, Aasit’s expertise in harnessing technology to catalyze social impacts in the field have supported the initiatives of USAID implementing partners such as Abt Associates to strengthen the health system in South-East Asia and technology adoption in East Africa. Aasit has an MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and was honored as a Global Health Corps Fellow in 2013. The fellowship brought his monitoring and evaluation insights to Uganda, to help the USAID Strengthening TB and AIDS Response (STAR) Program better understand HIV service performance throughout the country. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sent Aasit to India in 2015 to scale its TB awareness campaign nationally and his insights on patient needs are included in a chapter of Let’s Talk TB, A Series on Tuberculosis. Aasit continues to help the international development community adopt technology solutions and is continues to support young development professionals as an Adjunct Professor at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. 

Laura O’Brien, is the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL). She works with the program teams to define the key outcomes of their work and develop measurement and learning plans to track progress, identify our impact, and make course corrections as necessary. She also supports DIAL to serve as a pioneer in applying adaptive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) principles, ensuring that programming is driven by continued evidence gathering and responsive to the dynamic needs of the digital development ecosystem. Prior to joining DIAL, Laura served as the Innovation Program Manager at The QED Group, where she used human-centered design principles to develop prototypes to tackle challenges in the M&E space. She has led evaluations in Guatemala with WINGS, a Guatemalan non-profit organization and consulted with UN Women to evaluate the strategic options available for its Buy from Women software, which connects female farmers with access to finance, markets, and information in Rwanda. During her graduate studies, Laura worked as a Research Assistant at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and developed a policy brief on the relationship between public health access and quality, religion, and ethnicity. She started her career at Management Sciences for Health (MSH), an international public health NGO, where for six years she worked in M&E, program management, new business development, communications, and technical assistance to projects in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Laura has a master’s in global human development from Georgetown University and a BA in international affairs from George Washington University.

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Veronica Olazabal is the Director of Measurement, Evaluation and Organizational Performance at The Rockefeller Foundation. She oversees the Foundation-wide measurement and evaluation function at the strategy, initiative, and grants portfolio levels, including the assessment of the impact of the Foundation’s work. She is also part of the Foundation’s senior leadership team. Veronica has worked with the MasterCard and Rockefeller Foundation’s international programs on topics ranging from youth learning and financial inclusion to climate change and market solutions. She led the monitoring, evaluation, and research efforts of social venture Nuru International, UMCOR (The United Methodists Committee on Relief), and the Food Bank for New York City. Veronica has also co-chaired InterAction’s Working Group for Evaluation and Program Effectiveness and represented civil society for the United Nation’s discussions on development effectiveness. In addition to currently serving on the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) Board of Directors, she is the founder of AEA’s Social Impact Measurement (SIM) Topical Interest Group (TIG) and co-chair of AEA’s International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation (ICCE) TIG. See Veronica’s full bio here.