Community update: MEAL (June 2019): Outcome monitoring, qualitative methods, and innovation

Volker Hüls
Volker Hüls
Volker Hüls is Global MEAL Advisor for the Danish Refugee Council.
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 currently works as Global Advisor for Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning (MEAL) at the Danish Refugee Council, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
A female interviewer talking to a mother in rural Bangladesh

Photo: Lutful Husain

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

This month I would like to talk about another common theme. ALNAP have in late June released a series of three papers on humanitarian monitoring that I suggest are essential reading to all practitioners.

Outcome monitoring in humanitarian response

We are all very much aware that in humanitarian response monitoring, we report the reach more often than any other "quality" indicators. I have written about that in an earlier post as well. This paper invites us to think about how to get better at monitoring outcomes – the first level of change for our beneficiaries – rather than just how many people we have reached with our interventions. 

Using qualitative methods in humanitarian monitoring

As an evaluator where we use a lot of qualitative methods for evaluating humanitarian action, I have always questioned the focus on quantitative approaches in humanitarian monitoring. We cannot quite express quality so well by just counting, and as evaluators we ask, we read, and we observe. This paper is a timely and vital contribution to the sector and makes us re-think how we can use qualitative methods more consistently and in a more structured way.

Is there innovation in monitoring?

The third paper in this series builds on real-life experience in "non-traditional" monitoring in humanitarian response. It uses three lenses to look at them – when do we monitor, how can we be flexible, and how do we put monitoring data into perspective. Good food for thought with useful examples that we can model.  

Recommended resources

ALNAP papers

Here are the links to the three papers – but have a look around the monitoring section of the ALNAP website, there is a lot more related content.

Keep an eye out for...


There is an event at IDS, on July 25, that has caught my eye. It will explore how NGOs can get better at interacting with, and benefitting from, academia and research. I will certainly watch it online.
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.
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