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M&E at DSI

Speaker Amenee Siahpush lecturing in the DSI auditorium with students in the foreground

M&E, or Monitoring and Evaluation, is an important tool in social design here at DSI.

Monitoring is the routine process of data collection and measurement of progress towards program objectives, and evaluation is the use of social research methods to systematically investigate a program’s effectiveness. In other words, M&E helps us understand the impact of our efforts.

Each year, we hold an M&E Module for second year students that spans both Fall and Spring semesters to support their thesis projects. Taught by the amazing Anne LaFond and Natasha Kanagat of John Snow, Inc., the module is designed to inform teach students how to utilize M&E frameworks while developing a measurement plan, data collection, and theory of change.

Dhara Shah (‘20), found the M&E workshop to be particularly helpful, and had this to say:

“Being a social designer, I’m often concerned with how to ensure that our work is making the intended impact. The M&E module provided a concrete methodology to map out actions to our intentions to help drive a strategic practice to design. This practice is essential to all designers within the social sector, to not only help set intentions for design but to also measure impact throughout the design process.”

First year DSI-ers had an intro to M&E in their Understanding Natural and Social Systems course. The UNSS course teaches understanding of social and environmental issues in the context of the complex human communities and natural systems in which they exist.

The in-class lecture by guest speaker Amenee Siahpush of 100 Resilient Cities engaged students in a discussion around “Measuring the Impact of Social Innovation”. Amenee reviewed the basics of M&E through case studies based on her work reinventing various systems within cities to better serve the people living in them.

To explain the importance of the work, Amenee emphasized that: “one of the most valuable — yet all too often overlooked — purposes of monitoring and evaluation is to design clear, logical, and impactful projects. The structured thinking of M&E promotes iterative and adaptive design, where you challenge yourself through the design process by asking: ‘Is what I’m proposing both necessary and sufficient to achieve the desired change?’ M&E tools will definitely poke holes in your design if things aren’t adding up — and, believe me, you don’t want to find those holes after you have started implementation.”

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