Another year, another MERL Tech in the books. Once again, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) co-sponsored the MERL Tech conference, a space for discussion, learning and sharing experiences and challenges with the use of technologies for Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (MERL) in the social impact, humanitarian and international development fields.
Two full days and a day of pre-session workshops allowed for wide ranging topics such as “What’s next for data science and development?” to “Ethical tech practices in development – how can we all do better?” to be debated and discussed in an open format. At DIAL, we strive to help strengthen the understanding of the value, impact and risks of digital technology in MERL and to support learning and discussion on new approaches and tools for MERL work. This year, we presented two topics for discussion: Living Our Vision: Applying the Principles for Digital Development as an Evaluative Methodology and Messaging Platforms: Best Practices, Costs, Security and Privacy. Our Senior Director of Insights and Impact, Laura Walker McDonald, also presented at the Responsible Data pre-workshop on our polarizing responsible data cultures, and how to chart a course between them.
Senior Manager of the Digital Principles, Allana Nelson, moderated the Living Our Vision session. While each member of the panel had time to present on their methodologies, Nelson also posed questions to the group to further explain how they were able to transform the framework provided by the Principles of Digital Development into an effective evaluative methodology. Then, the session split into working groups where each panelist was given the opportunity to foster a dialogue on the lessons learned of the tools they have been working on.
Manager, Insights and Impact Maurice Sayinzoga also led a session at MERL Tech on the use of Messaging Platforms in development programs. Joining him were implementers across the field to share insights from research conducted and insights from practical program implementation. With an estimated 3.9 billion people using messaging apps globally, this session was poised to offer best practices on a fast-growing field.