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A growing number of humanitarian and international development organizations have been shifting their processes for managing project/program results frameworks, indicators, targets, and results from spreadsheets to online platforms. With this comes the opportunity for centralization, standardization, and consolidation of program monitoring data.
The strategic move can also demand extra effort or exacerbate existing challenges in data governance, internal reporting processes, and/or organizational politics or power dynamics. As such, to maximize adoption and business value, digitization efforts in this arena need broad stakeholder engagement and buy-in across Programs, MEL, and IT, coupled with thorough change management efforts.
Aligning and integrating with project management and ERP, digital transformation initiatives can provide staff with a central source of project/program truth but may bring unexpected dependencies that challenge timelines. Because organizations often use a variety of data collection tools–some with consistent data structures, some with ad-hoc or project-specific data structures–flexible data ingestion and aggregation functionality become increasingly key to saving time, maintaining adoption, and ensuring good data quality.
Emma Newbatt is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist in Plan International’s Global Hub. She has over ten years experience in MERL for international development programming, with a particular focus on sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence. After several years spent designing and implementing large scale, multi-country independent evaluations, she joined Plan International in 2019 at an exciting and evolving time for MERL in the organization. A key part of her current role is supporting the integration of Plan International’s online M&E system into organizational ways of working, with a particular emphasis on strengthening use of the data to generate insights and inform decision-making.
Julie Rajaratnam is the Director of Strategy, Measurement, and Learning at PATH, aka Jill-of-all-trades. She has over fifteen years of experience in global health research, monitoring and evaluation that have produced countless theories of change, indicators, and utilization-focused evaluations that measure and inform improvements in global health policies and programs. You can make her day by sharing with her what you just learned and what you’re going to do about it. Prior to PATH, Julie wrangled mortality data for the Global Burden of Disease. She has some formal education, but her most important educational achievement is expected in 2028 when she will receive her masters in parenting.
Zak Kaufman is Co-Founder and CEO of Vera Solutions. He's worked for 15+ years at the intersection of the social sector and technology, leading program evaluations in Southern Africa and Latin America and architecting M&E, grant management, and program management systems for 75+ funders and implementers. Zak holds a PhD and MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and has been recognized as a Marshall Scholar, Truman Scholar, Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur, Global Good Fund Fellow, MO-100 Top Impact CEO, Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellow, and in the Meaningful Business 100.
Heather Dolphin is the Deputy Director for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning at Catholic Relief Services. She oversees the enhancement of CRS’ MEAL systems, advancing a professional MEAL curriculum and competencies to ensure a high performing MEAL sector throughout the agency, and oversees CRS’ work to establish systems and structures that promote and facilitate learning, adaptive management and accountability efforts to ourselves and to the people we serve. From 2010 to 2015, she served as the Regional Technical Advisor for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning in the CRS West Africa Regional Office, advising and supporting the region’s MEAL Managers in 14 countries. She also served as Head of Programs in the CRS Sierra Leone Country Program from 2015-2018. Prior to joining Catholic Relief Services, she served as the cross-regional M&E Manager with Lutheran World Relief. She is completing her PhD in Public Policy at the University of Maryland, she has a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Program Evaluation from the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. She is a Returned Peace Corps volunteer from the Dominican Republic.