A CLA Approach to an MEL Conference: Kudos to USAID/Jordan
USAID/Jordan’s Mission Director, Dr. Jim Barnhart speaks with Hayat Askat during the MEL Expo at the second annual USAID/Jordan Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Conference. USAID/Jordan.
Jessica Ziegler is a Senior Learning Specialist on the USAID/LEARN contract.
I recently had the good fortune to participate in the second annual USAID/Jordan Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Conference and was struck both by the enthusiasm for collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA) that I saw among our MEL colleagues and their recognition of the CLA already happening in Jordan. Stacey Young, USAID/PPL’s CLA Team leader, and I were invited to present sessions at the conference on CLA and knowledge management, the latter of which we co-presented with a panel of amazing Jordanian M&E professionals (#allFEMALEpanel).
Right from the beginning of the event, I knew that we were among kindred spirits when I heard the inspiring opening remarks from USAID/Jordan’s Mission Director, Dr. Jim Barnhart. His comments stood out to me for the appreciative way he recognized the good CLA that the Mission and its implementing partners were already doing: “when we all collaborate, as we’re doing today [and] everyday, we learn and adapt to new challenges and circumstances.” Before any other speeches were given, attendees had the opportunity showcase their expertise through a wonderful MEL Expo that encourage participant interaction. Both Dr. Barnart’s opening and the Expo put the spotlight on how monitoring, evaluation, and learning can improve development programming.
Watch the following video clip to hear more from Dr. Barnhart.
From the outset, USAID/Jordan’s Program Office and its Monitoring & Evaluation Support Project (MESP), implemented by MSI, not only chose CLA as a key conference theme, but also used a CLA approach to design and plan it. They used evaluation data from the 2016 conference to learn and improve the design, quality, and impact of the event. Some of their adaptations included: integration of international experts and the introduction of the MEL Expo, among others, which provided additional opportunities for learning, relationship and networking. External collaboration was also a hallmark of this conference, with USAID implementing partners (IPs) involved in an advisory committee, and intensive collaboration with IP and other speakers to ensure each session was high quality, met participant needs, and integrated CLA. As MESP’s Addi Qatamin explained, they took this participatory and adaptive approach because it “not only had the potential to improve the quality of the conference, but also development outcomes.”
All of the conference attendees I spoke with found it to be a very valuable experience, appreciated the focus on innovative MEL techniques and practical tools, and definitely took advantage of the opportunity for network-building and peer exchange.
For Missions and MEL support platforms interested in convening the MEL practitioners in their communities for capacity building and peer-to-peer exchange, I encourage them to look at the Jordan experience. In walking the talk of CLA, they have even shared a wealth of information about the conference on USAID/Jordan’s Knowledge Management Portal.