By Hannah Lapalombara, Social Impact Intern for Vietnam Learns
From late May through the beginning of August 2020, I had the pleasure of working as a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) intern with the USAID/Vietnam Learns program, as implemented by Social Impact (SI).
SI’s Vietnam Learns contract is a five-year engagement from September 2019 to September 2024 to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of USAID/Vietnam’s programs and interventions for the 2020-2025 Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) period. Vietnam Learns’ three principal objectives are to
- Strengthen USAID/Vietnam, implementing partners (IPs), and local stakeholders institutional capacity, particularly in MEL and collaboration, learning and adaptive management (CLA) in order to achieve expected results
- Deepen use of M&E and other types of data to support learning and improve performance at all levels
- Improve coordination, collaboration, and learning between USAID/Vietnam staff, the Government of Vietnam, IPs, and other key stakeholders.
Under the first objective, Vietnam Learns provides technical assistance to IPs throughout the Program Cycle. As the Learns program was still in its infancy at the time I began my internship in May of 2020, the Vietnam Learns team was in the midst of assessing IP capacities and developing standardized processes, templates, and other guidance for technical assistance to IPs. Specifically, the team had reviewed several IPs’ Activity MEL Plans (AMELPs) and identified inconsistencies in formats, definitions, and/or common understandings of key concepts. As such, the Vietnam Learns team planned to create standard guidance on AMELP development and develop a standardized AMELP diagnostic scoring rubric in order to effectuate a more systemized process for providing feedback to IPs and enhancing the quality of activity implementation.
In the first week of my internship, I developed a standardized AMELP template to be provided to IPs as part of Vietnam Learns’ technical assistance. The drafted template was created in consultation with Vietnam Learns staff, and in the following weeks, the team provided additional comments and feedback regarding the document. By the fourth week of my internship, we had finalized the AMELP template and created a rubric to diagnostically score submitted AMELPs.
The content of the AMELP template and the scoring rubric draws from USAID guidance on AMELP creation, Automated Directives System (ADS) regulations, USAID/Vietnam’s goal of focusing on Collaboration, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) strategies, and key examples from existing AMELPs from select IPs in Vietnam. The template provides a standard document structure with clear instructions for each section, as well as concrete examples of such elements as Theory of Change logic models and risks/assumptions tables with mitigation strategies. To incorporate a greater focus on CLA, the AMELP template includes detailed sections on learning questions and priorities, non-indicator monitoring, learning strategies, and adaptive management.
In its broad utility, this AMELP template and the diagnostic scoring rubric will be crucial in ensuring that all IPs working with USAID/Vietnam are operating under the same principles and understandings when it comes to Theories of Change, monitoring, evaluation, learning, and adapting. In turn, this cohesion across IPs’ AMELPs will allow USAID/Vietnam to better assess and track its progress at the country level and achieve its 2020-2025 CDCS goals.