Tag Archives: working group

Let’s discuss Responsible Data in M&E at the Africa Evaluation Indaba!

Indaba is an isiZulu and isiXhosa word for an important meeting held by leaders in South Africa to discuss critical matters. This past week, I’ve been listening in at the Africa Evaluation Indaba, organized by The University of the Witwatersrand and CLEAR Anglophone Africa. Critical matters have indeed been discussed!

We will delve into one such topic on Tuesday, 24 November, 12-13.30 Central African Time during the launch of the Responsible Data in Monitoring and Evaluation (RDiME) Alliance.

The RDiME Alliance is a community of practice that will work on data governance in the African context, with a focus on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). It is part of a CLEAR-AA and MERL Tech initiative to convene a group of interested M&E professionals and data governance experts in order to dig deeper into this topic and to work together on guidance for evaluators related to responsible data governance and management. It builds on discussions that CLEAR-AA and MERL Tech hosted in June about responsible data, remote monitoring, and use of administrative data during COVID.

At the upcoming session, we will discuss ways that M&E practitioners can improve data management and how they can play a role in improving data governance practices at the institutional and national levels. We will open the floor for discussion and consultation on priority areas and gaps in the practical aspects of responsible data management as well as in data governance processes that improve accountability.

Following the Indaba, will draft up a plan that lays out how we can best offer training, guidance and support for the M&E community with relation to responsible data management and data governance.  We also plan to develop a set of guidance documents on responsible data governance and M&E together with the RDiME Working Group, which is made up of a group of experts who have data governance, data protection, and evaluation-related expertise and experience. We hope the RDiME Alliance’s work will support government evaluation efforts as well as civil society organizations and evaluation firms.

Register here to attend the RDiME Launch and Discussion at the Indaba!

What makes the Africa Indaba Evaluation conversations so exciting (for me, at least!) is that they are framed within a lens of decolonization and transformation. This past week, topics included:

  • “Transforming Evaluation: The Race, Power, Gender and Class Struggle,” with speakers covering questions like: how do we locate evaluation within the historical context of asymmetrical global power relations and aid dependency? What needs to be done to dismantle systems and structures so that evaluation does not become complicit in entrenching existing inequalities? (Monday 16 November)
  • The Made in Africa (MAE) Evaluation approach which arose out of the quest for contextually relevant approaches, methods that emphasize the centrality of contextual relevance and place importance on indigenous knowledge systems. (Tuesday 17 November)
  • The launch of the Global Evaluation Initiative, (GEI) which aims to offer better coordination of evaluation resources and to support local and international organizations working in the area of evaluation. (Wednesday 18 November)

(Recordings of these sessions will be available soon).

Join in this coming week (November 23-26, 2020) for more sessions!

  • Monday you can find out more about AfrED, an increasingly comprehensive database on evaluation projects, studies, agencies and actors in Africa.
  • Tuesday, as noted, is our RDiME Alliance Launch and discussion
  • Wednesday will cover Adaptive Management and Climate Change
  • Thursday will be a wrap-up session to discuss the long-term road ahead for evaluation in the African context.

Register for the RDiME Alliance discussion and launch on Tuesday, November 24! (This same link will allow you to join in any of the sessions)

See the full Africa Evaluation Indaba agenda for sessions, timings and speaker names.

Open Call for MERL Center Working Group Members!

By Mala Kumar, GitHub Social Impact, Open Source for Good

I lead a program on the GitHub Social Impact team called Open Source for Good — detailed in a previous MERL Tech post and (back when mass gatherings in large rooms were routine) at a lightning talk at the MERL Tech DC conference last year.

Before joining GitHub, I spent a decade wandering around the world designing, managing, implementing, and deploying tech for international development (ICT4D) software products. In my career, I found open source in ICT4D tends to be a polarizing topic, and often devoid of specific arguments. To advance conversations on the challenges, barriers, and opportunities of open source for social good, my program at GitHub led a year-long research project and produced a culminating report, which you can download here.

One of the hypotheses I posed at the MERL Tech conference last year, and that our research subsequently confirmed, is that IT departments and ICT4D practitioners in the social sector* have relatively less budgetary decision-making power than their counterparts at corporate IT companies. This makes it hard for IT and ICT4D staff to justify the use of open source in their work.

In the past year, Open Source for Good has solidified its strategy around helping the social sector more effectively engage with open source. To that aim, we started the MERL Center, which brings together open source experts and MERL practitioners to create resources to help medium and large social sector organizations understand if, how, and when to use open source in their MERL solutions.**

With the world heading into unprecedented economic and social change and uncertainty, we’re more committed than ever at GitHub Social Impact to helping the social sector effectively use open source and to build on a digital ecosystem that already exists.

Thanks to our wonderful working group members, the MERL Center has identified its target audiences, fleshed out the goals of the Center, set up a basic content production process, and is working on a few initial contributions to its two working groups: Case Studies and Beginner’s Guides. I’ll announce more details in the coming months, but I am also excited to announce that we’re committing funds to get a MERL Center public-facing website live to properly showcase the materials the MERL Center produces and how open source can support technology-enabled MERL activities and approaches.

As we ramp up, we’re now inviting more people to join the MERL Center working groups! If you are a MERL practitioner with an interest in or knowledge of open source, or you’re an open source expert with an interest in and knowledge of MERL, we’d love to have you! Please feel free to reach out me with a brief introduction to you and your work, and I’ll help you get on-boarded. We’re excited to have you work with us! 

*We define the “social sector” as any organization or company that primarily focuses on social good causes.

**Here’s our working definition of MERL.