My MERL Impact Journey
GETTING ONBOARD THE JOBBERMAN SHIP: THE MERL CABIN
Leaving a core geospatial track and joining Jobberman Limited in February 2021, I began working working closely with the Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist to foster efforts in leading the design, development and implementation of monitoring, evaluation and research functions and to ensure organizational effectiveness for Jobbermans’ work with the MasterCard Foundations’ Young Africa Works project focusing on Northern Nigeria.
While this was the primary objective at the time, I learnt a lot in the first two weeks working with Omotayo Abraham on ongoing research via working calls, learning about the pattern of work on the team, the tools and processes being used to collect and analyze data as well as repertoires. I had relocated to Kano for the role and settling in was a tricky thing. I benefited from the teams’ support, insight and advice on how to settle in for a hybrid role (remote/onsite). After a while, I started working directly with Adebola, learning more about the MEL processes, including but not limited to data collection across platforms, verifications, analysis, insightful report writing and knowledge brokering sessions across teams.
All the above were important in getting me ready to make contributions to the MERL team as an integral part of the Programme Strategy team (then led by Amanda Potelwa) by contributing to weekly, monthly and quarterly reports as well as ongoing research efforts. It was also a lot of pressure, at first, to be at the forefront of brokering knowledge across teams as it has its perks. These efforts have served as an invaluable proverbial ‘lighthouse’ at sea for the implementation of the YNW project in Lagos, Kano and Kaduna where hundreds of thousands of youth have been trained equipped with the requisite skills to excel in the world of work.
GOING FROM ZERO TO ONE: THE OUTCOME
Speaking about training. At the time I joined Jobberman, a lot had already been put in place with diverse online learning platforms and well thought out soft skills training modules. There already existed effective feedback deployment methods and effective reporting and knowledge brokering blueprints. However, Physical training was yet to properly commence. The pilot for physical training was conducted in March 2021 with stringent COVID-19 protocols. Being the MEL point of action for the work in Kano and Kaduna, I designed responsive feedback surveys for participants at the pilot weeks before the training and asked for insight on its deployment from experienced colleagues. I also made other relevant background findings for the training.
Working closely with the Youth Engagement and learning team, as well as partners on the project at the time provided an opportunity to access external stakeholders to give recommendations before, during and after the Youth EngagementxTraining Session. This marked the kickoff of the pilot series of physical training in the North and my efforts to collect data from interviews, surveys and observations to develop a series of learning reports for effective scaling of physical training processes in Kano and Kaduna, a much relevant phase in standardizing data collection processes, human and material resource needs assessment, baseline and endline deployments as well as feedback data collection and analysis in timely manner. This phase of the project also marked the beginning of my pursuits in managing the standardization of our Jobberman’s Kano space to support physical training processes in the north. A win I hold really dear!
ONE PERCENT BETTER
Joining a fast paced team in a rapidly growing/changing project had its perks. Often simultaneous, I engaged in robust series of design, revision and coordination of the implementation of data collection (feedback and learning surveys, baseline and endline data, interview data, focus group discussion data etc), analysis and evaluation of initiatives and research efforts and supporting the process of curriculum development and review as well as supporting mapping of best practices research for Jobberman’s soft skills curriculum and pedagogy especially in the northern context.
I also delved deeper into contributions to the reports and other ongoing research efforts — engaging external stakeholders, planning supporting and and conducting interviews in (Lagos, Kano and Kaduna) as well as Focus Group Discussions — while designing, testing and refining data collection and evaluation tools in line with the research objectives for the Young Africa Works Project at Jobberman — and ensuring quality assurance and control in Kano and kaduna.
COLD WIND BLOWS
By August 2021, my previous manager had left for Dakar and the then project researcher transitioned into a different industry. Yet, myself and the team pulled through with the work on the M&E as well as ongoing #Research. I was however hit by the loss of my beloved mother on the 11th of August.
I was on assignment in Makarfi Local Government, about an hour’s drive from Metropolitan Kaduna, when I received a call from my brother that mum had departed. I am unable to share the events surrounding that, but may Allah AWJ grant her eternal rest, alongside others that have departed. Fast forward, a week later, I was able to pool resources and networks to successfully complete another phase of an internal ongoing research in Kaduna, organizing, conducting and documenting a series of subject matter expert interviews and focus group discussions. The lessons and insights from that particular research keeps shaping the knowledge I broker with internal and external stakeholders for #Jobberman’s work especially in the North, on the YAW project. This win I hold dear, and am proud of. RIJF Mum, Dad et al.
THE CONVERSATIONS: WHY WE STARTED USING THE ODK, AND HOW
I met the International Finance Corporations' Muhammed Aliyu at #Kadinvest6.0 in Kaduna, an event organized by KADIPA now led by Khalil Nur Khalil. The event centered around fostering development in the state towards a knowledge- based economy and my conversation with M.Aliyu — who I engaged for strategic partnership on the training and placement front — shifted towards ensuring responsive programming in projects. Dear Muhammad Aliyu, while our work with Joy Oke has not been finalized, I gained insight relevant for the ongoing design of a tool that would change how we got feedback for contextually relevant programming on the YNW project in an inclusive manner. I appreciate this and hope we continue a mutually beneficial relationship.
I have a deep bias for relevant geospatial solutions and innovations so this came almost naturally, a plus. With the insight gained, I successfully developed, piloted and led thirty-nine MEL support persons to deploy Jobberman’s first set of Facilitator, Mobilizer and Participant’s Open Data toolkits for impact assessment, on-site qualitative and quantitative data collection as well as training location mapping relevant for responsive programming. This was particularly a breakthrough as it supported seamless data collection in locations with significantly limited internet access — in real time- and further guaranteed the integrity of the process while keeping a cloud repository of much needed data to monitor quality assurance, impact assessment and actionable recommendations on the Young Africa Works project. What a win!
PS: Would be worthy to provide context that after effective strategic review of scale-up plans, track and needs assessment, I initiated, coordinated and brought aboard thirty-nine resourceful and diligent Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Support persons to support the rapidly growing learning processes in physical training in Lagos, Kano and Kaduna.
WE HAVE NOT COME THIS FAR TO ONLY COME THIS FAR
From designing frames, strategies and pathways, to developing, reviewing and brokering insights from evaluation and learning reports from dynamic initiatives at pilot and deployment stages to support effective project implementation and scaling of project initiatives -I have come naturally to do this with diligence, excellence and integrity. I have learnt so much on the team (and elsewhere) during this past year and also applied learning pertinent to conducting critical and complex analyses of data including visualization of project data and catchy designs to display project impact, and communicate conclusions clearly with actionable recommendations on the project.
Eyitayo’s Product Design Course at Utiva and Oludotuns Monitoring and Evaluation Course at Clonehouse have been instrumental to my learning. Special appreciation as well to colleagues on this platform such as Kandi Shejavali that share the good tricks of the MERL trade from time to time.
In closing, engaging in dissemination of MERL outputs with external stakeholders have also been instrumental to my role. Same goes to supporting stakeholder management, influencing policy development and advocacy activities, facilitation of strategic engagements and collaborations with Government and Non-Profit stakeholders, soft Skills training session facilitation, as well as proposal request review and evaluation to support the Youth Engagement and Learning activities in Kano and Kaduna.
I have had the rare opportunity immense familial support — and of coming from a setting where learning is progressive, open and deliberate Teach For Nigeria, particularly under the leadership of Folawe Omikunle, Ahmed Alaga, Titi Ige, Sandra Meninwa, Assumpta Dagaat, Courage Agbeti and Moses Stephen as well as colleagues and mentors at #CODE Hamzat Lawal and Zaliha Lawal #NOBOXINITIATIVE Nabeelah Garba Ahmed and Maryam Onubaye Oyiza #LAFIYADFID #BRITISHCOUNCIL #ARAEi Gideon and others not mentioned.
We have not come so far to only come this far.
Here’s to becoming better!