Lead Researcher - Outcome Harvesting

  • Senior-level, Short-term contract assignment
  • Posted on 27 July 2020
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Job Description

The Malawi Local Government Accountability and Performance (LGAP) project will improve the performance of local government in Malawi by improving capacity and accountability of local governments, strengthening citizen engagement and oversight, and improving the broader national policy and systems environment for decentralization. While doing so, LGAP will directly assist USAID Malawi to operationalize its integration approach. Currently in the fourth year of program implementation, LGAP has recently expanded from 8 districts to all 28 districts in Malawi. In this context, USAID and LGAP partners are interested in better understanding how project interventions have collectively contributed to changes in local government accountability and effectiveness. With this goal in the mind, the LGAP MEL unit is proposing to conduct an outcome harvesting study. The study will collect and analyze evidence from two of the districts originally supported by LGAP with the expectation that the outcomes from these districts can shed light on the experience of and outcomes achieved by the remaining six districts originally supported by LGAP. The decision to limit the number of districts to two was undertaken to reduce the overall resources, in time and money, required for the study.

Purpose and Scope:

DAI is seeking a Lead Researcher for an evaluation using the outcome harvesting method. In this role, the Lead Researcher will provide guidance to the design and develop the data validation workshop; lead the design and execution of the assessment, including topic selection; lead the production of draft study report; review and validate the final study report; and participate in debrief with USAID.

Outcome Harvesting is a method that enables an evaluator, or “harvester”, to identify, formulate, verify, and make sense of outcomes of a project. The method was originally inspired by the definition of outcome as a change in the behavior, relationships, actions, activities, policies, or practices of an individual, group, community, organization, or institution. Using Outcome Harvesting, the harvester gleans information from reports, personal interviews, and other sources to explore and document how a given project has contributed to outcomes.

Outcome Harvesting works best when outcomes, rather than activities, are the critical focus. In addition, it is suitable for evaluating complex programming contexts. Outcome Harvesting is designed for situations where decisionmakers are interested in learning about achievements rather than activities, and about effects rather than implementation. Outcome Harvesting is especially useful when the aim is to understand how individual outcomes contribute to broader system-wide changes. Advocacy, campaigning, and policy work are ideal candidates for this approach. Given that the Malawi LGAP project follows a systems approach, as opposed to a more linear approach, and given the large number of actors influencing the system, Outcome Harvesting is a suitable methodology for exploring LGAP’s contribution to change within and beyond local governance systems.

This study will closely follow the methodology articulated above and will more specifically follow a workflow. The described methodology accounts for the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be led remotely by an external Lead Researcher and a Deputy Team Lead from DAI’s in-house MEL team. Both will work closely with the LGAP team throughout the design and implementation of the study. The LGAP team, led by the MEL Director, will carry out some primary data collection, as explained in the workplan, and help ensure that the study is as participatory and utilization-focused as possible. The study will aim to answer four fundamental questions about LGAP and its effectiveness, though these questions may be refined and modified during initial design and implementation. The study is additionally expected to serve as a capacity building activity for both DAI Home Office and LGAP MEL staff, building capacity within the organization on qualitative data collection and analysis.

Although outcome harvesting is commonly conducted with one external expert support the field team, the remote nature of this work (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and the desire for independent review, led to the proposed two-person approach. The external Lead Researcher will validate the final report, and help develop the capacity of both LGAP’s in-country team and DAI globally. This long-term objective translates into a desire for a critical, useful product by the external consultant, regardless of findings. In addition, as noted in LGAP’s recently submitted APMEP, LGAP plans two additional outcome harvesting exercises (Integration, and Value for Money), which will be detailed in later scopes.

Deliverables
  • Data Validation Workshop (remote)
  • Draft Study Report
  • Final Study Report

Qualifications

  • Extensive knowledge of and experience in international development and/or the social science. Experience with DRG work
  • Experience with USAID.
  • At least 8-10 years of experience leading utilization-focused evaluations, and at least two examples of developing and apply outcome harvesting approaches
  • Excellent facilitation, research, and communication skills, with demonstrated experience carrying out fieldwork remotely

About the Organization

DAI works at the cutting edge of international development, combining technical excellence, professional project management, and exceptional customer service to solve our clients’ most complex problems. Since 1970, DAI has worked in 150 developing and transition countries, providing comprehensive development solutions in areas including crisis mitigation and stability operations, democratic governance and public sector management, agriculture and agribusiness, private sector development and financial services, economics and trade, HIV/AIDS, avian influenza control, water and natural resources management, and energy and climate change. Clients include international development agencies, international lending institutions, private corporations and philanthropies, and host-country governments.

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