Learning Relationships: Building M&E Capacity at a Global Health Organization and Beyond

Blog by Michelle Desmond, PATHDominic Mutai remembers his first experience as a mentee in PATH’s M&E Professional Engagement Program, or M&E PrEP, as it’s more commonly known. The program strengthens monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacity by helping M&E professionals improve their knowledge of practice standards, build skills necessary to deliver high-quality work in the field, and apply these practices through hands-on learning experiences.

“It was such a rich experience, and so much more than a training,” recalls Dominic, a Senior M&E Data Analyst at PATH based in Kisumu, Kenya. Dominic, who graduated from being a mentee and is now mentoring others, finds it just as rewarding to be a mentor. He recalls learning about the integration of M&E components across a project during the program, from developing M&E frameworks to reporting results.

For the past five years, PATH—a global organization driving transformative health innovations to save lives—has been experimenting with a new learning approach for global M&E staff through relationships linking them with more experienced colleagues in the organization. As requests for both skills training and technical assistance increased, the M&E team had to reconsider the approach to strengthen M&E capabilities in a structured, measurable way. Instead of traditional, top-down, instructor-led trainings, the team envisioned on-the-job training experiences with real-time mentorship, and peer feedback and support for M&E challenges on active projects.

What resulted is a nine-month program that builds participants’ knowledge of M&E practice standards, tools, and guidance through a blended learning approach that includes eLearning modules, monthly webinars, and 1:1 meetings with both mentors and peers. Participants are paired with mentors based on individual skill levels, current M&E work, and time zone. Mentors and mentees jointly develop and implement a learning plan targeting a competency area. Alongside mentors, peers in the M&E PrEP program help tackle real-time project challenges and share learnings through monthly calls together.

Participants are paired with mentors based on individual skill levels

Photo Credit: Damaris Kinara, PATH

The interactive, discussion-based webinars, led by a member of the M&E team, incorporate real project examples. The mentors model a culture where it’s safe to share mistakes, leading to transparent conversations about the challenges of their work. Pairing e-learning, webinars, and mentor and peer calls cultivates a purposeful and intentional space for applied learning practices to be reflexive and relevant to the learner.

Participants have the opportunity to immediately apply new knowledge, and see the direct relevance of lesson plans in their work. The program culminates with participants designing a final project that contributes to their daily work and to the M&E community at PATH. Projects with staff participating in M&E PrEP indirectly gain capacity through improved quality of M&E.

“(M&E) PrEP is really a joint capacity-building opportunity because we’re learning together,” said Chris Obong’o, an M&E PrEP mentor based in Kenya.

M&E PrEP utilizes adult learning principles, including self-direction and immediate practical application into daily M&E responsibilities to reinforce learning and deepen understanding. The program produces curious and actively engaged M&E professionals who ask questions and create and contribute to “a culture of inquiry.” (Preskill & Boyle, 2008). For Dominic, M&E PrEP offered the rare opportunity to connect and share learning with colleagues across PATH. “Serving as a mentor really put things in perspective, it put the things I’d learned earlier [as a mentee] into focus. And as a mentor, I appreciate the structure…you’re meeting them where they’re at.”

PATH has adapted M&E PrEP for external capacity building to share our successful experience and learnings with other partners in global health. To learn more about PATH’s M&E Professional Engagement Program, email MandE@path.org.

About the author:

Michelle Desmond Michelle Desmond is a Senior Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Officer at PATH, an international non-profit organization. She began her evaluation career 10 years ago by evaluating trainings and continues at PATH to search for innovations in building lasting capacity in people around the world. At PATH, she also provides technical support to teams in M&E, conducts qualitative research, manages evaluations and creates and facilitates. She earned both a MSW and a MPH in Global Health from the University of Washington with a graduate certificate in HIV and STIs.

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