Welcome to aea365! Please take a moment to review our new community guidelines. Learn More.

ICCE Week –The Future of Tech-enabled Evaluation in International Development by Veronica Olazabal

Welcome to ICCE week! This is Veronica Olazabal, Director of Measurement and Evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation by day and Chair of the ICCE TIG by night – AEA Board Member always. We have a diverse set of posts this week written by our ICCE TIG colleagues that touch on how international evaluators are considering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gender issues, work in conflict states and bilingual tools. There is something for everyone and I encourage you to follow along!

I myself have recently returned from MERL Tech – London which in my opinion provides an excellent window into the future of evaluation. Since 2014, this event has convened professionals working in the international development sector as well as tech providers and data scientists to consider the role of technology in monitoring, evaluation, research and learning. Over two days, about 200 participants explored cutting edge topics such as big data, artificial intelligence, biometrics, and satellite imaging to support M&E.

drawing of computer, book, telephone being tossed into a light bulb

Hot Tips:

A few take-aways and interesting resources about the future of this work for evaluators:

  • It’s evolving quickly. We are no longer talking about “a tool” that will solve all our international development challenges – such as a “dashboard,” or a tech software. This is sobering as it moves the development sector further away from linear thinking and closer toward understanding that th
    is work is complex. Rad Resource: See this summary of Aid on the Edge of Chaos by Ben Ramalingam https://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/aid-edge-chaos-book-you-really-need-read-and-think-about – reading the book is even better!
  • It’s becoming people-centric. While we spent less time talking about a tech-enabled tool, we did spend more time talking about the role of people. For instance, the people in the communities we are working in, the people collecting and analyzing data, the people running the tech-enabled platforms, the people making funding decisions etc. We even discussed people’s rights around data security, responsible data etc. It’s clear that as we move into the future, artificial intelligence will not (yet) overshadow the need for people across the international development ecosystem. Rad Resource: http://www.theengineroom.org/civil-society-digital-security-new-research/
  • It’s about valuing collaboration. Having been in this space for some time, I am often shocked by how extreme and dogmatic we can be about our own points of views. For example, that data science will make evaluation obsolete, or why even do evaluation when monitoring is the key etc. I found the MERL Tech discussions this year more focused on collaboration and working together to find common ground.This is exciting in that it acknowledges that we need to bring ALL our skills to the table to problem-solve around measuring impact and ultimately improving the lives of millions. Rad Resource: http://merltech.org/the-future-of-development-evaluation-in-the-age-of-big-data/

Interested In Learning More?

  • Sign up for ICTworks, which is a unique resource for learning about MERL TECH from both user experiences and technical experts.
  • Attend a MERL Tech – the next one is in Johannesburg in August. To learn more and to follow the active conversation around technology and its applications to M&E, please visit org.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating International and Cross-Cultural (ICCE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the International and Cross-Cultural Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ICCE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.