Community update: MEAL (October 2019): Flexible monitoring, monitoring perceptions, and predictive models

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.
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

Adaptive management of humanitarian responses is so important when we work in today’s complex situations. This month I wanted to pick out some examples that give us inspiration how to do that.

Creating more flexible humanitarian monitoring systems

Our monitoring in humanitarian response is a bit stuck. We are under pressure to demonstrate reach, and at some point in the process we need to provide summative evidence for accountability. For this we really need consistent indicators (and as an evaluator I always struggled when indicators had been changed several times during a response). But this way we often miss the changing realities facing the response, and we end up not adapting. The recent ALNAP study “Shifting Mindsets” makes the case for flexible monitoring systems that go beyond accountability and capture quality and shifting response realities in much more compelling ways. 

Meaningful measurement of perceptions

A case in point for more adaptive management is the use of unstructured community feedback in a structured system to inform a better quality Ebola response in the DRC, a collaboration between the IFRC and the Centre for Humanitarian Data. This per se is not traditional monitoring, but it allows responders to feel the pulse of what works and what doesn’t and adjust. Making such complex and diverse data available in a systematic way is a major step forward in making the response more relevant and appropriate.

Predictive models for humanitarian response

On the other side of the data spectrum there is now a lot of interest in predictive models for humanitarian response. Algorithms of course need much more structured data – very different from what the work on perceptions is using. It is fascinating though, and the predictive analytics work stream at the Centre for Humanitarian Data is a prominent example (that also featured in a side event at last month’s UNGA). There surely is lots more to come from that work. 

Recommended resources

Flexible monitoring

The Shifting Mindsets report with a chapter on flexible monitoring can be found here:

Perception information

The work of the IFRC and the Centre for Humanitarian Data with perception information in the DRC is featured in this article.

Predictive analysis

This summary of a panel discussion on predictive analysis nicely summarizes the current state of play

Keep an eye out for...

Berlin hosts two very interesting events in the second week of October. The Humanitarian Congress (17-18 October) has climate as the overarching topic; an area where predictive analysis seems very applicable. The last day has a session on anticipatory humanitarian aid. Then in the same week is the ALNAP annual meeting (15-16 October), which this year focuses on relevance of humanitarian response. I am sure both events will generate very interesting outputs around this month’s topics.
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.