By: Chris Thompson, Social Impact Technical Director

When the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting aid programs in 2020, development practitioners globally went into overdrive preparing and sharing guides on how to serve their beneficiaries remotely. This was especially true among the monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MERL) community, whose work is critical to improving development effectiveness and managing adaptively in times of crisis.

Remote monitoring toolkits were developed which drew on experiences in nonpermissive environments to offer menus of methods to overcome data collection challenges. In addition, ethical pieces emerged that built on the work of institutional  review boards to raise considerations for protecting privacy and safety during COVID-19. While these proved helpful to adapt and apply methods, we at Social Impact (SI) felt a gap existed in practical resources about how to manage and implement evaluations day-to-day.

Through a series of internal conversations, we identified overarching challenges and solutions for remote evaluation technical management grounded in global experiences. We have packaged these into an upcoming blog series to share this learning with the broader MERL community and to preserve the voices of the teams involved, whose teamwork is critical to the success of any evaluation. These include:

  • A blog by one of our teams conducting an end line evaluation in the Philippines who found that the distance and barriers between them limited organic exchanges and collective reflection and learning. They increased participation by turning to simple tools that permit informal communication and specializing team roles to give everyone a voice in managing the evaluation. Read the blog titled, “Disrupting the formality of the remote evaluation” here.
  • A post by researchers assessing youth development in Jordan who experienced competing demands and limited availability of staff, leading to unspoken assumptions and miscommunications about roles and responsibilities. They responded by building in more time and reflection into their evaluative processes and balancing the need for predictable check-ins with flexibility to allow everyone to contribute. Read the blog titled, “An evaluation…..but make it remote” here.
  • A collection of innovations from evaluators around the world who “looked on the bright side” and shared how working remotely offered unique opportunities to enhance their work’s quality and do things a little better than before the pandemic. Read the blog titled, “Opportunities (Yes, the glass is also half full)” here.

While we hope our teams’ experiences help other development practitioners to be more effective at improving peoples’ lives, we recognize a blog series will only advance this mission so far. We hope these posts deepen the conversation about how to generate evidence  during the pandemic through more effective remote evaluation technical management, and we welcome feedback from our peers and partners around the world as we learn to respond to the changing operating environment together.


Cover Photo Credit: Oscar Siagian, USAID Jalin