Community update: MEAL (February 2019): SOHS, humanitarian metadata, etc.

Volker Hüls
Volker Hüls
Volker Hüls works as a consultant, evaluating humanitarian programs. He currently lives in Tanzania.
Volker has 20 years’ experience in international assistance, with most of these at the nexus between humanitarian and development programs. Before his international work, he was a civil protection practitioner in Germany. He has authored and co-authored recent humanitarian evaluation syntheses, and has this year evaluated responses in Syria, South Sudan, and Nigeria.
Community updates provide brief highlights from expert practitioners about what they see as the key developments in a specific area, what resources they would recommend, and what to look out for in the coming months.

Key developments in the area of MEAL

State of the Humanitarian System

I quite like this ALNAP project – every three years we get a reality check on how the humanitarian system performs. This year, again, the report noted that monitoring in humanitarian action remains a weakness, and often just counts the number of people reached. This is important as we need to get better at monitoring quality and also impact (good/bad – intended/unintended) more systematically to be accountable to those we serve – not just to those that provide the funding.

Launch of Humanitarian Insight

Dashboards are a great thing, especially global dashboards that can drill down to more detail. I like this one for being a good and easy way to access HNO/HRP information. Unfortunately, it is inevitably building on the mostly reach-focused needs assessments with little or no quality-focused indicators. This underlines the concern raised in the State of the Humanitarian System report, and is a timely illustration of the point it made.

Doing No Harm in the Digital Era

“Doing no Harm in the Digital Era” is a just released report about the issue of humanitarian metadata. Cash transfer programs, feedback mechanisms, and survey collectors, amongst others, all gather metadata that can reveal a lot more about beneficiaries than they may want to share. This in some situations may put them at risk, an issue that needs to be well understood and managed by organizations. In a way, we are in a conundrum where we struggle to gather more quality data about our programs (my two examples above) but at the same time in many instances collect a lot more data about our beneficiaries than we need or are able to manage safely.

Recommended resources

State of the Humanitarian System:

You can access the State of the Humanitarian System Report on the link below – the reference to monitoring is on page 183 (Effectiveness):
There is also a good recent paper from ALNAP on the challenges in monitoring humanitarian action:

Humanitarian Insight:

The dashboard is available at the link below (you can log in with your Humanitarian ID to use the management tools):

Doing No Harm in the Digital Era:

The report, commissioned by the ICRC, can be found here:

Keep an eye out for...

What should be on everyone’s radar is the revision of the OECD/DAC Criteria for Evaluation. While nominally a tool for evaluating development programs, there are specific criteria for humanitarian evaluations that remain the reference standard in the field. The revision is therefore equally important for humanitarians. A survey of the evaluation community has just concluded, and the results should be published soon. You can find more information here.
PHAP community updates are written by members of the association and other practitioners in their personal capacity. The views expressed belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or any other organizations with which the author is associated.