The Covid-19 pandemic: a push for flexibility, inclusivity, and re-thinking M&E by Binod Chapagain & Tripti Pande

Hi! We are Binod Chapagain and Tripti Pande with Pact’s global offices in Thailand and DC. Building from our experiences as monitoring and evaluation (M&E) professionals, we are delighted to share some of our learnings through our work in diverse sectors such as; health, environment, peacebuilding and supporting a global community of practice of M&E professionals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The pandemic brought new challenges such as inaccessibility to on-site data, inability to perform periodic on-site data quality verifications, and restrictions on in-person trainings of data collection operators and field-staff. Not only did it force us to re-think our strategies but also uprooted many programmatic logistics causing annulment and/or delays in activities. 

With the rapid adoption of information communication technologies (ICTs), data security concerns and donor flexibility were prominent questions. Further, data collection in remote communities with limited internet bandwidth and connectivity, was another point of concern. Finally, the halt on in-person participatory evaluation activities was an additional challenge.

Adaptation

By employing ICTs, we converged to virtual trainings, mobile data collection, phone surveys/interviews and virtual visits. For example, a program in the Philippines used drones to verify field activities. Due to limited in-person interactions, many evaluations were forced to explore under-developed areas such as systemic change by conducting desk reviews for policy outcomes. Finally, in countries where the COVID-19 outbreak was not as widespread, such as Thailand and Cambodia, collaborations with local service providers facilitated fieldwork evaluations.

Lessons Learned:

  • Inclusivity: We hosted internal virtual coffee-chats among our global M&E colleagues to discuss new methods of data collection, analysis, visualizations and different evaluations. We were able to exchange dialogue from various countries which would have been difficult pre-COVID. Through our remote focus group discussions (FGDs), we were able to enhance our evaluations and gain insights from team members who previously may not have participated due to transportation or funding constraints.
  • Flexibility: COVID-19 reinforced the need for flexibility such as re-defining indicators to include virtual trainings, accounting for data collection delays, introducing new indicators which include contextual and environmental concerns etc. By virtue, M&E is a very rigorous activity however this pandemic has shown us the need to account for a certain degree of flexibility.   
  • M&E 2.0: Thinking ahead, with the globe’s increased interest in the power of data, we would like to capitalize on this opportunity by encouraging evidence-based decision making throughout our programs. In Thailand, we have integrated M&E trainings for non-M&E staff members as well, to enable them to gain knowledge on the area. We hope to continue doing this in other country offices as it will also help further integrate M&E throughout program life cycles.

Rad Resource:

MEL adaptations to COVID-19 – Society for International Development, Washington DC

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