M&E for “Collaboration, Learning and Adapting” in PACE

By Joanna Springer, Research & Evaluation Technical Specialist, PROPEL; Brett Sedgewick, Technical Advisor for Food Security & Livelihoods; Patrick O’Mahony, Chief of Party, PROPEL

ReportIntroduction
A project’s M&E activities serve a variety of purposes and constituencies, including beneficiaries and stakeholders, project management, the donor and headquarters. How often have you observed that a lack of flexibility in programming limits how well M&E achieves these functions? In fact, due to time constraints and rigid work plans, M&E may primarily serve to reinforce linear approaches to development programming, when in fact it is neither linear, nor predictable. Sometimes M&E data isn’t even reviewed until the mid-term or final report, thus limiting our ability to understand what’s working and what’s not, or adapt to realities on the ground. USAID’s Collaboration, Learning and Adapting (CLA) initiative is designed to address these shortcomings by granting projects greater flexibility and adequate resources so that M&E functions contribute to project learning.
USAID considers South Sudan PROPEL (Promoting Resilience through Ongoing Participatory Engagement and Learning), implemented by Global Communities in partnership with CRS, one of its flagship CLA projects. A three-year $24 million Community Driven Development (CDD) project designed to improve community resilience, PROPEL uses Global Community’s PACE method. PACE empowers communities to prioritize their own development needs and drive initiatives through democratic and inclusive decision-making and increased capacity for resource mobilization. The entire PROPEL team is involved in a rapid learning curve as we scale up our activities to design programming and M&E systems that can adapt to changes in a volatile environment such as South Sudan.

Integrating MERL and programming
On the PROPEL project, we integrate M&E, Research and Learning (MERL) into all aspects of programming. PROPEL is utilizing a critical case study approach incorporating mixed methods (extensive qualitative as well as quantitative data) to explore and assess a range of factors that influence CDD outcomes in South Sudan. Further, the project makes rigorous use of tracking data relative to CDD design and changing context to measure factors that vary from community to community. Research and tracking data will be analyzed to yield a set of lessons learned and recommended best practices to guide ongoing implementation and future program design for USAID in South Sudan.

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