Are you current on your acronyms? What to know about M&E vs. MERL

By Kelli Rogers 20 October 2015

Zanzibar malaria surveillance officers being trained on using RTI's coconut system for malaria case follow-up. The transition from M&E to MERL “will entail as much change management as the switch to tech-enabled M&E has involved,” according to Kerry Bruce, chief measurement and impact evaluation officer at Global Fund to End Slavery. Photo by: Mike McKay / CC BY-SA

Technology continues to disrupt the monitoring and evaluation operating environment, and the field itself is morphing to more readily embrace research on effectiveness and a focus on organizational learning.

In other words, M&E as we know it is blurring with research and learning to hatch a new acronym: MERL. Positions posted on Devex are increasingly reflecting the need for “MERL” advisers, and practitioners in the space are focused on improving the quality, capacity, ethics and security of data collection — while everything from mobile phones to remote sensors are creating new ethical and privacy challenges, along with security risks.

Organizations taking M&E seriously are often more inspired by a passion to improve their own work than by a global framework, and this means spending time to bring program staff and M&E staff together as part of a strategic thinking team, which was discussed heavily at last week’s MERL Tech event, hosted by FHI 360 in Washington, D.C. (Where speaker after speaker unknowingly provided a creative repertoire of MERL and big data similes).

The transition from M&E to MERL “will entail as much change management as the switch to tech-enabled M&E has involved,” according to Kerry Bruce, chief measurement and impact evaluation officer at Global Fund to End Slavery. “It means being rigorous about reviewing data and committing to changing course, even when it is either difficult or politically wearisome to do so.”  

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About the author

Mechosen
Kelli Rogers@kellierin

In her role as associate editor, Kelli Rogers helps to shape Devex content around leadership, professional growth and careers for professionals in international development, humanitarian aid and global health. As the manager of Doing Good, one of Devex's highest-circulation publications, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest staffing changes, hiring trends and tricks for recruiting skilled local and international staff for aid projects that make a difference. Kelli has studied or worked in Spain, Costa Rica and Kenya.


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