Humanitarian Performance: Linking MEAL, Networks, and Standards in Practice

with Sarah Pollock
11:15 am - 11:30 am

Research Team:  Sarah Pollock , Justin Pulford

The objective of this study was to identify attitudes towards and realities of Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) implementation in humanitarian practice, in support of more practicable standards and MEAL guidelines. I conducted a prospective qualitative study, conducting 17 semi-structured interviews with experienced humanitarian workers and advising network representatives.  Interviews with eight humanitarian implementers, six MEAL advisors, and four network key informants, explored their realities for use network standards and MEAL in practice. Significant emergent themes included: misunderstanding of MEAL and standards, competing priorities and the emphasis of the humanitarian imperative, critical financial influences, training gaps, neglected responsibility, and network benefits and limitations. While participants expressed strong desire to employ MEAL and affirmed the potential of standards, the use of these resources in practice was inconsistent.

Despite the evidence of MEAL’s contribution to quality humanitarian interventions and it's worth noted by humanitarians, MEAL has not been integrated into practices to the fullest potential. Accountability and learning are severely neglected in practice, signaling the ineffectiveness of advising networks who target these components. Standards and network guidance have important offerings to support the quality and accountability of humanitarian action, yet an abundance of factors hinder their adherence if adopted. Network initiatives should strongly consider an impact evaluation, reformation of membership structures and collaboration with implementing humanitarian managers to gain meaningful traction within the sector. There is limited investment and prioritization of performance enhancement strategies by humanitarian organizations. Inadequate training and skills for MEAL and programme management among humanitarians challenges performance improvements measures.  

Sarah Pollock, MSc IPH, BScN is an alumni of the University of Alberta and recent MSc graduate from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Her nursing career has focused on HIV and sexual health with several years of humanitarian work with Médecins sans Frontières.