The BalanceD-MERL consortium under the U.S. Global Development Lab’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning Innovations (MERLIN) program consists of World Vision (Prime), Innovations for Poverty Action, Institute for Development Impact, Search for Common Ground, and the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan. More information on the BalanceD-MERL approach, including case studies of two pilot projects leveraging this approach, can be found here. The Maturity Matrix described in this document has also been informed by the pilot projects.
The Balanced Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (BalanceD-MERL) consortium recommends deliberate balanced integration of the four core principles across all aspects of D-MERL to enable better use of monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MERL), leading to a team’s ability to gather and incorporate findings into program design (D):
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. D-MERL activities, processes, and methods are coordinated and efficient. D-MERL processes and data are non-duplicative and meet program management, leadership, and compliance needs.
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. D-MERL is transparent and accountable.
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. Trustworthy D-MERL is internally and externally valid, reliable, and objective, ensuring integrity of both the process and the results.
Balance can be achieved by explicitly incorporating these four key principles, underpinned by a focus on utilization, into D-MERL activities. The maturity matrix is a tool to help program and MERL staff integrate MERL with program design through the use of four principles in the service of good program management. Through these principles, activities, programs, and strategies are informed by:
- 1. Development theory and shaped by the local context
- 2. Stakeholder engagement is guided by culturally-sensitive and ethical practices
- 3. Resources are appropriately matched with program and strategic goals
- 4. Valid, reliable, and objective results are found and
- 5. Decision-making is evidence-driven and reflective of a broad range of stakeholders’ voices.