Wanted! MEL specialist on fragile and conflict affected contexts

Marta Arranz Methodology, Real Geek

Marta Arranz  reflects over the role of monitoring and evaluation in fragility and conflict programming and talks about a new exciting role in Oxfam GB.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning is a vital part of Oxfam’s work in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. We’re looking for a creative, experienced technical specialist to push our thinking and practice on monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) in fragile contexts. Sound like you? Read on.  Someone you know? Pass it on.

A third of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised people are living in fragile and conflict-affected countries. These contexts present unique and serious challenges for development actors. Our team is recruiting a MEL specialist with a specific focus on MEL in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. You’ll play a leading role in our work to deliver high quality programming (including strong MEL) in these areas.

Oxfam has strong competencies in humanitarian responses and humanitarian MEL, and there are very obvious connections and similarities between humanitarian and conflict sensitive programming, but also important differences in terms of the outcomes we are trying to achieve.  The role of monitoring and evaluation to enable good programme quality is also quite different. Watch Duncan Green eloquently describe the differences in this vlog.

If intervention is based on thinking politically, the monitoring and evaluation system also needs to [be]

Duncan describes Fragile and Conflict Affected Contexts as “incapable of assuring basic security, maintaining rule of law and justice, or providing basic services and economic opportunities for their citizens”. Can social change be supported when basic security is not assured, when formal governance systems are inexistent or completely dysfunctional? How can citizens engage in social change movements when basic rights are not protected or when the civil society space is closing down? What sort of things we need to measure (and how) to understand the more subtle dynamics of how change happens in fragile contexts, to know if what we are doing is working or causing harm? What does monitoring and evaluation need to look like to be relevant and add value in these contexts?

My colleague Annabel Morrissey who manages a multi-country programme supporting governance in fragile and conflict affected contexts describes how crucial good MEL is for conflict-sensitive programming: “If we want to ensure our projects are conflict sensitive, it’s all about good MEAL. We need to be dynamic in monitoring changes in context; evaluate the impact our projects are having on conflict dynamics and vice versa- both positive and negative; ensure we are accountable to the communities we serve; and importantly reflect and learn to take key decisions of when to change project scope, adapt and adjust. We do not implement our projects in vacuums from the local operating contexts, but often we can be so set on achieving pre-agreed project outcomes, we fail to adapt and be dynamic enough to make critical changes.”

So if the intervention is based on thinking politically, the monitoring and evaluation system also needs to embody thinking politically too. It’s about complicated power relations, formal and informal power structures, conflicted relationships and governance systems, and the MEL system needs to put this at the core.

Social change doesn’t happen in linear ways. Adopting systems thinking and understanding complexity is necessary in any development intervention, but in these contexts is crucial. Interconnections between actors, external factors and internal forces are dynamic and unpredictable. Traditional static and rigid planning and monitoring frameworks are not fit for purpose. We cannot do adaptive programming with unresponsive MEL frameworks and tools.

Understanding what matters and what needs to be captured is not always straight forward. Traditional monitoring and evaluation frameworks usually focus on measuring what we already know how to measure, not necessarily what matters or what we need to know and understand. A good evaluator will help the team identify what is important to understand whether the intervention is making progress in the right direction or not and find the best way to measure it.

So, last week we launched recruitment for a new Global M&E Advisor to lead thinking on measurement in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  We are looking for a creative thinker who is ready to take on this challenge and help us break new ground.

This is a truly exciting opportunity for an individual with extensive experience in MEL and very good understanding of fragility and conflict who is ready to push the limits and lead in this area of work within Oxfam GB. Do you know someone who could be a good fit? The role is open for applications until 30th of November.


Oliver Pearce