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The maturity matrix is a tool developed under the Balanced Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (BalanceD-MERL) consortium to help staff integrate MERL with program design through the use of four principles (mentioned below) in the service of good program management.

1. Relevant: D-MERL is relevant when it is informed by development theory and is intentionally shaped by, and responds to, how local people, context, and strategy evolve over time.

2. Right-sized: D-MERL is right-sized when it is a match between resources (people, time, and money) and goals.

3. Responsible: D-MERL is responsible when it goes beyond the “do no harm” principle to engage respectfully, ethically, and sensitively with the target audience(s) of the program and local partners.

4. Trustworthy: D-MERL is trustworthy when it is conducted according to standards of rigor appropriate to context, constraints, and/or intended use of the data.

The purpose of this document is to help USAID staff plan for and implement effective and efficient programs and monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MERL) systems in a post response recovery. This heuristic tool is a quick reference document developed to assist program managers and MERL practitioners navigate the process of building the balanced design-monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (D-MERL) system in this evolving context.
Six building blocks of a D-MERL system are presented below and associated questions that help to frame
Blocks are detailed in the publication

Building block 1: Partners and collaboration
Building block 2. Program strategy – the big picture planning
Building Block 3. Results frameworks and MERL plans
Building Block 4. Reporting system
Building Block 5. Data-based target setting
Building Block 6. Performance monitoring, evaluation and learning

On behalf of USAID/Peru, the Institute for Development Impact (I4DI) undertook a mixed-methods study to examine the conditions under which private industries become voluntary adopters of best management practices (BMPs) in hydropower, oil and gas, large-scale industrial mining, beverages, and road projects. With a particular focus on private industries working in Amazonia, Latin America, and/or areas pertinent to tropical forests, this study examined BMPs applied across various aspects of project development and implementation, including environmental assessments, siting, design, operation, and closure. The findings from this study informed the development of a model that predicts the conditions under which private industries and investors become voluntary adopters. This study contributed to the design of USAID’s Amazon regional environmental strategy, which focused on reducing the negative impacts from large-scale infrastructure projects, extractive activities, and climate change on Amazonian forests, waters, and indigenous peoples.

This document presents nine questions that companies can ask during their partnership with USAID. Action-oriented guidance is also provided to help companies connect each question back to the overall program management strategy for their engagement. Although this document centers on the private sector, other non-profit or public-sector partners can apply it to their work with USAID as well. These questions focus on one thing they all have in common: how companies ensure good program management that is responsive to data. Good program management integrates program design (D) and implementation with their monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MERL) activities to achieve partnership objectives.

The questions provided in this document are strongly informed by lessons learned during a 15-month technical assistance pilot with a USAID Global Development Alliance. During this pilot, the BalanceD-MERL consortium served as technical experts to support a private sector partner in their first engagement with USAID.

USAID engaged the BalanceD-MERL consortium (I4DI was a consortium member), henceforth known as the ‘consortium,’ to provide longitudinal MERL support to the Women + Water (W+W) Alliance in India. Following an initial review of program and partner MERL documentation, and discussions with the W+W partners, the consortium determined that the program design and MERL planning were nascent. However, because the Alliance and its management structure were complex, and the program would be multifaceted, the consortium proposed and was commissioned to deliver a MERL strategy. The MERL strategy was to be developed through a structured, participatory process involving W+W program and MERL staff, commencing with co-development of the program’s theory of change. Because Gap, Inc., the prime implementer, had not worked with USAID previously and had limited D-MERL capacity, the consortium also was commissioned to provide MERL mentorship to Gap, Inc. throughout the engagement.

The evaluation conducted by I4DI found that the Citizenship and Leadership (C&L) Program was particularly relevant to the Haitian context, where there were very few opportunities for youth to participate in civics and leadership training (inside or outside of the classroom), and where leadership was often identified with political controversy.

The evaluation found the C&L Program to be very effective. Data collection strongly affirmed that program content led to a real transformation in students to become active citizens committed to change within themselves, their community, and their country. Additionally, the program was relevant in its content because it modeled key best practices identified through literature review, and offered opportunities for real world application and reflection through service-learning, a strategy that incorporated community service with educational objectives.

The purpose of the evaluation was to support reflection on achieved effectiveness (and the challenges involved) of the approaches adopted in the CSEF programme and to provide evidence of the impact of CSEF’s work to support further access to funding and other forms of programme buy-in and support. The evaluation is both summative and formative, with a strong emphasis on drawing together lessons and recommendations to inform improvements and structural changes for the future of CSEF from 2016-2018. As such, the evaluation is intended both as an accountability tool and a learning opportunity.

I4DI designed and implemented a final evaluation of USAID Global Health Ebola Team’s (GHET’s) Ebola Survivor activities in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Using a mixed-methods approach, the evaluation team drew on quantitative health facility assessments, quantitative provider surveys, qualitative key informant interviews at endline, and use of baseline and endline quantitative surveys conducted among Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) survivors by implementing partners. The GHET program was effective, particularly in reducing the stigma EVD survivors experienced from health providers in Guinea and Liberia. In Sierra Leone, provider stigma was already the lowest among countries at baseline and remained so at endline; thus, the same reduction was not evident. While the GHET EVD survivor program also improved the availability of clinical services for EVD survivors, accessibility of care was more difficult to improve at the primary level given systemic public health weaknesses in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

As part of the external evaluation of the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) (2013-15) requested by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), I4DI conducted seven country case studies. The evaluation aimed to contribute to GCE’s ability to respond to challenges and objectives by identifying the emerging impact of the CSEF programme, provide evidence of the effectiveness of its design and implementation model, and derive learning from implemented processes and structures to influence and strengthen future programming.

The Vietnam case study was conducted by field visit with the Vietnam Association of Education For All (VAEFA). Interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with development partners, coalition member organizations, coalition board members, coalition staff, and the staff from the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). A complete list of interviewees and organizations included in the case study can be found in Annex 1 of the publication.

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