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Uncertainty and Covid-19: A Turning Point for Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning?
This paper asks an important and potentially wide-reaching question: in terms of Monitoring Evaluation Research and Learning (MERL), will the “aid-world” let the crisis that is Covid-19 go to waste? While this phrasing is indeed a cliché used today in reference to all crises, it seems particularly relevant to the practice of MERL. The authors make it clear that we have known for a while what constitutes “good practice” in MERL systems: localisation, national ownership, contextualisation and the ability to adapt as circumstances change. The authors reflect on the extent to which the “critical juncture” created by Covid-19 (the juncture being helpfully defined as “where the structural influences that drive behaviour are ‘significantly relaxed for a relatively short period’”) will be seized upon by key actors in aid-world and usher in more enlightened and developmentally justifiable ways of working. Or will path dependency prove too strong, and once the crises subsides, we return to the bad old ways of expatriate-driven, fly-in fly-out, linear and rigid monitoring processes, delivering comforting and rather anaemic data to senior officials and ministers, who crave brevity, surety and simplicity? The outcome is unknowable. But as the paper concludes, all in aid-world have a role to play.