MERLIN Helps USAID/Uganda Incorporate Innovative MERL Approaches in Project Design
Last month, implementing partners of the Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Innovations (MERLIN) program sent representatives to meet with USAID/Uganda to discuss challenges and opportunities in monitoring and evaluating the Mission’s new Country Development and Cooperation Strategy (CDCS). This provided an exciting opportunity for MERLIN partners to work with Mission staff on creatively and preemptively identifying M&E needs and opportunities as they implement an innovative new strategy. The week included presentations on the CDCS, the various MERLIN mechanisms (DEPA-MERL, BalanceD-MERL, RF-MERL, SPACES-MERL, and ERIE-MERL), as well as matchmaking sessions. Specific activities included:
- A group discussion breaking down the 5 Rs (Resources, Roles, Relationships, Rules, and Results) of USAID’s Local Systems Framework based on the 14-year old girl--the center figure in USAID/Uganda’s new CDCS
- An in-depth discussion with Project Appraisal Document (PAD) thematic groups to guide Mission staff along the MERL needs identification process.
- A round robin (aka “speed dating”) of interactive activities and in-depth discussions with each mechanism.
Image: Participants mapped their vision for Uganda in the next 20 years.
USAID/Uganda’s move to host this activity is notable for several reasons. Although the best time to consider M&E approaches is at the program design stage, the very nature of USAID’s design and procurement processes limit the feasibility of proactively seeking innovative M&E solutions. Furthermore, the myriad uncertainties inherent to the design stage can be a vulnerable time. As our colleague Luke Heinkel (of Results 4 Development/RF-MERL) put it, these meetings were “a great opportunity to look under the hood” and try to understand and address the Mission’s needs. Ultimately, that is what the MERLIN consortia want to help other USAID Operating Units to achieve. As the new ADS project management guidance calls for a greater focus on adaptive management, which requires from innovative and flexible MERL systems, there has never been a better time
Image: Outcome of brainstorm on how and when MERLIN can assist USAID/Uganda through the implementation of its new CDCS
Is your USAID Operating Unit developing new strategies or programs that you’re unsure how to test or measure? We welcome you to explore how we may be of service as you plunge into the unknown. Contact the EIA team at the Lab and find out if MERLIN can serve you!