Clara Hagens, Kelly Scott and Guy Sharrock on Embracing an Organizational Approach to ECB

Greetings! We’re Clara Hagens, Kelly Scott and Guy Sharrock, Advisors in the MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning) team with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Baltimore. We’d like to offer another perspective on Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB), namely, creating and institutionally embedding a suite of MEAL Policies and Procedures (MPP) that ensures a systematic and consistently applied set of requirements for developing, implementing, managing and using quality MEAL systems.

Our MPP became effective on October 1, 2015. They comprise 8 policies and 29 procedures that strengthen MEAL practice globally. An internal ‘go to’ website has been created in which each procedure is explained, and the audit trail requirements and some additional good practices are stated; guidance, templates and examples for each procedure are also accessible. Our local partners are not directly accountable to the MPP, but providing institutional support to them serves as an effective form of ECB.

As official agency policy, the MPP are now being incorporated into regular internal audit processes; additionally, country programs conduct annual self-assessments of compliance and develop ‘remedial’ action plans as required. This is not a stick-waving exercise but more an opportunity to identify where weaknesses exist so that ECB support can be provided. Overall, the rollout of the MPPs represents a constructive ECB effort by both MEAL and other program staff steering users towards ‘a CRS way of doing MEAL’.

Hot Tips:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! It is important to ‘carry’ people with you as you develop MPP. Collaborating with future users helps to ensure that compliance with the procedures is both feasible and meaningful.
  2. Build procedures on what is already going well with MEAL in your organization. Codifying strong ongoing practices as key MEAL procedures helps to scale-up their application to a global performance level.
  3. Track progress to identify requirements that continue to challenge users so that potential problem areas can be addressed before they become more serious.
  4. Ensure there is a maintenance and revision process to ensure that the MPP remain field-tested and realistic, and that there is a protocol that will enable them to evolve over time.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Think ‘more haste, less speed’! Developing policies and procedures can, and should, take time. Focus on quality and give yourself time to do this properly, and be flexible.
  2. Having well-crafted MPP provides a sure foundation for staff competencies in MEAL and, ultimately, a supporting curriculum, both critical pieces for raising organizational performance in MEAL.
  3. If done well, users can be surprisingly positive. We have found that colleagues embrace the structure, ‘certainty’ and value-addition that the MPP offer. The accompanying resources help save them time and facilitate an uplift in the quality of their MEAL activities.

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3 thoughts on “Clara Hagens, Kelly Scott and Guy Sharrock on Embracing an Organizational Approach to ECB”

  1. Thank you for these helpful tips and lessons learned. At our organization, I struggle mostly with program staff not caring about the data, and only doing enough to get the entering process done. Policies and procedures are generally being followed, but how can I improve the desire to review and use data, especially since so many program-friendly reporting tools have been created and are at their fingertips at all times.

    -David Leopold

  2. As a MEAL manager for a project, I often refer to the CRS MEAL policies & procedures to help guide decision-making and review the strengths and weaknesses in our system. Most recently, I used them to help my team and I create our yearly work plan. I find the structure to be helpful and love the way that they are laid out to help guide users through an entire project cycle. Thumbs up for some great advice, guys!

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