PhD and MA research students on M&E systems in South Africa, Benin and Uganda

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1          Background

Twende Mbele is a collaborative initiative between the governments of Benin, Uganda, and South Africa, CLEAR AA and the African Development Bank to strengthen national monitoring and evaluation systems in Africa. The wider outcome of the programme is that “Effective M&E systems (eg practices, policies, tools and procedures) are implemented widely and sustained in partner and other countries with ongoing collaboration across Africa around M&E”.  The immediate outcome is that ‘Improved M&E systems (eg practices, policies, tools and procedures) based on shared experience are operational in partner countries and more widely used’. Therefore the project’s core is active collaboration between partners who are committed to using M&E information to learn and improve government’s performance and impact on citizen. It will achieve this through 5 outputs, (1) stimulating demand to use M&E tools within partner countries and by other governments for improved governance, (2) Increased sharing and (3) increased learning in Africa around use of M&E for improved governance, (4) Specific M&E practices, policies, tools and procedures developed collaboratively, (5) Effective and collaborative programme management. CLEAR Anglophone Africa is providing project management support, through its host the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).

As part of Output 3, Increased Learning, Twende Mbele is working with academic institutions and researchers to better understand the region’s monitoring and evaluation context and needs, and to document the lessons from the programme.

2          Call for Proposals

We invite proposals from faculty, MA students, and doctoral students from fields of management, public administration, and across the social sciences, to participate in research linked to the work of the Twende Mbele initiative.  Twende Mbele aims to support 3 doctoral candidates in Benin, Uganda, and South Africa. Furthermore, the project aims to support 2 MA students in each country. PhD students will receive stipends of R75,000 per year for two years, while MA students will receive stipends of R30,000 for one year. There may be some additional support available for costs of research or academic development if there is an identified need and strong motivation for this. Additional supervision and research content support may be available for each stream of work.

3          Twende Mbele’s overall research agenda

Twende Mbele’s overall research agenda is outlined below. Some of these questions will be addressed by specific research projects funded by the programme, while others are possible topics for doctoral or Masters research. In the following section we outline some specific topics where we know students are invited, and these will be the priority. There are also possibilities for students to look at some of the questions being addressed by the other studies, to supplement the work that is being commissioned.

Twende Mbele’s research agenda is covered under four themes.

Theme 1: Describing the regional M&E systems and the context in which they operate

Although there is some research on the national M&E systems of Uganda, South Africa and Benin, this information is often insufficient, fragmented and inaccessible. This leads to poor understanding of the systems and structures that support evidence-based decision making as well as the context in which they operate. The inadequate empirical information about the landscape of M&E in these countries is a major constraint towards development of effective interventions to strengthen M&E systems in the said countries. Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive research on the state of monitoring and evaluation systems in the countries so as to fully understand the dynamics that drive the desire to establish M&E systems as well as the factors affecting effective implementation of these systems. It is against this background that the main research activities under this theme focus on the following:

  • Understanding the context in which M&E systems are implemented in the three countries
  • Investigating the weaknesses and strengths in the implementation of different M&E systems and identifying and sharing lessons learnt and best practices amongst the countries
  • Exploring ways of empowering the civil society for improved demand and use of evidence for decision making

It is assumed that a comprehensive and systematic understanding of the context within which M&E systems are conceived and implemented in the three countries is an important step towards the achievement of the broader outcome of strengthening regional M&E systems for improved governance in African.

 Theme 2: Increased learning in the region of the use of M&E for improved governance

Evaluation Capacity Development (ECD) is one of the most important strategies towards strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems especially on the supply side of the evaluation. The increased demand for evaluation has resulted in the growth of a number of ECD initiatives in Africa and in the three Twende Mbele countries in particular. While these efforts are much appreciated, they are often uncoordinated and vary in quality. The offering of uncoordinated and inconsistent monitoring and evaluation education and training across the countries contributes to the supply of inadequately skilled evaluators who are unable to effectively respond to the growing demand for evaluation services in the public sector.

It is for this reason that the research activities under this theme focus on understanding the factors that shape the demand for and the supply of evaluators in the region. These questions will be answered through collaboration with Institutions of Higher Learning and professional associations to strengthen evaluation profession and practice. Therefore the main areas of research will focus on the areas outlined below:

  • Understanding the demand for and capacity of evaluators
  • Exploring strategies for development of collaborative curriculum and common competency framework for M&E profession in the three countries

Conducting research on the above will improve the evaluation capacity initiatives in the Twende Mbele countries and enhance the supply side of evaluation and contribute towards stronger monitoring and evaluation systems in the region.

Theme 3: Development of methods, processes and tools for effective strengthening of Monitoring and Evaluation Systems in the region

The three countries involved in the Twende project are at different stages of building and implementing monitoring and evaluation systems. Furthermore, different socio-economic and political realities that shape the design and implementation of M&E systems across the countries have resulted in the adoption of multiple and complex approaches, methods, tools and strategies some of which inhibit the effectiveness of the M&E systems. In an effort to address this, the project promotes a collaborative approach that facilitates peer learning and sharing with regard to development of better approaches, processes and strategies for improved M&E systems.

It is for this reason that research activities under this theme will explore ways of collaborating with each other to develop common and effective approaches, tools and mechanisms for strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems. In particular, the focus will be on the following areas:

  • Peer review of each other’s systems and collaborative identification and development of appropriate M&E tools
  • Assessing the gender responsiveness of M&E systems across the three countries

This collaborative approach will not only increase peer learning on what practices, approaches, tools and mechanisms are effective for improving M&E systems but will also result in countries developing better policies and strategies for improved systems thereby contributing towards improved performance and accountability of African states to their citizens.

Theme 4: Understanding the links between stronger M&E systems and stronger results

The main purpose of Twende Mbele is to strengthen government monitoring and evaluation systems in three countries through collaborative peer learning. This objective is premised on the assumption that development and implementation of effective and sustainable monitoring and evaluation systems will lead to improved performance and accountability of African governments to their citizens. In order to test this theory of change, the project will undertake an impact evaluation. This will be complemented by a range of research activities during the course of the project as indicated below.

  • Understanding what strategies work, how and why they work and exchange knowledge on how change occurs in different countries
  • Conducting a survey to provide baseline and end line data on the state of performance culture and use of M&E evidence in each of the partner countries
  • A final impact evaluation supported by annual and mid-term reviews to determine progress towards achievement of the project results

4          Possible areas of focus for students

Many of the above research questions are going to be undertaken by specific research projects funded by Twende Mbele. However there are some that have been specifically identified as appropriate for students. These include:

 

Study Focus Implementation modality
Performance culture research Impact and outcome level questions around Twende Mbele (eg what M&E systems were taken up, and was there evidence of any impact on performance culture)

This includes a baseline and endline on the context and how it changes

PhD Student
Study on learning and sharing What learning and sharing activities were conducted?

How effective were they?

What are the lessons for capacity development in future?

 

PhD Student

Documenting lessons from specific collaborations between partners How was the particular process?

What worked and what didn’t?

How did this lead to effective implementation?

What lessons are there?

MA Students

 

In the last case there are a number of possible collaborations that could be documented during the life of the programme, each of which could be a MA thesis. These include:

  • Collaboration on adaptation of the South African Management Performance Assessment tool (MPAT) in Uganda and Benin (year 1)
  • Collaboration on the development of common curricula and courses (year 1)
  • Collaboration in development and rollout of courses for Parliament (year 1)

Other possible topics in year 2 include:

  • Collaboration in development of models for involvement of civil society in government M&E systems
  • Rollout of gender responsive elements of government M&E systems
  • Implementation of mechanisms to strengthen evaluators in the region

Others will be generated during the programme. In addition to these priority areas there could also be submissions to cover other research questions that will be covered under Twende Mbele.

5          Submission Requirements

Research proposals should be submitted by to maloshni.naidoo@wits.ac.za by 6 January 2017 and should have “Research Proposal” in the subject line. Late submissions will not be reviewed. Proposals should adhere closely to the format below:

  • Details of the researcher, including name, qualifications, and organizational affiliation, not more than 1 page summary of CV
  • 1 page discussion on the research topic, problem, and proposed method of study
  • 1 page implementation plan, containing proposed activities and a timeframe.
  • 2 reference letters – one from academic supervisor and one from someone familiar with applicant’s work

 

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