Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning for Development (MELD) Program

MELD GifThe MELD Program will provide paid internships and training opportunities during the academic year for students interested in a career in research and evaluation in the international development industry. Admission to MELD is subject to an application process and spaces are limited. In coordination with DevLab@Duke, the program will engage students in the management and implementation of real-world development research and evaluation, with the objective of strengthening both research and management skills. Students will receive quality training focused on evaluation, real-world work experience, and multiple opportunities for professional networking. Each intern is paid hourly for work on projects; travel expenses related to the work will be charged to the program. Students will deepen their understanding of program and policy cycles, improve their capacity to generate and communicate policy relevant research findings and learn the critical aspects of project management – from business development budgeting to client and sponsor management.

Two primary goals of the program include preparing professional graduate students with critical capabilities for securing program evaluation jobs post-graduation, and contributing to the expansion of a new generation of evaluation specialists with both the research and management expertise to contribute to improved development research and programming. This is an excellent opportunity for students interested in a career as a monitoring & evaluation officer for an international donor, NGO or non-profit, as well as for students interested in careers with private evaluation firms.

The MELD Program works to extend qualitative and quantitative skills through two components:

  • Seminar: This will be a one-year course that runs students through modules that cover a typical international development program cycle:
    • Reading/understanding an RFP and understanding the role of evaluation in a technical proposal
    • Problem assessment and evidence review: How to identify crucial development problems and define them in ways that are consistent with policy levers and rigorous evaluation? How to synthesize evidence on a topic so that students know how to
    • Program theory & technical design: How to formulate a program theory; the relationship between program theory and program design; key design features bearing on evidence;
    • Monitoring and Evaluation: Different techniques for evaluating interventions—matching, discontinuities, diff-in-diff, RCTs, and beyond. Common threats to inference.
    • Field work: From concept to measurement; data collection techniques for baseline & endline. Building digital monitoring into projects. How to hire, train and monitor a field team.
    • Writing reports: Turning all of your fancy evidence into something the policy world can use and understand.
    • Case studies a la Harvard Business School: Big, influential successes and common failures.
    • The industry: How contracts work, travel, how to get a job, career paths.
  • Internship: In conjunction with the seminar content described above, the interns work up to two days per week on a designated DevLab project during Fall, Spring, and/or Summer sessions. These projects will be funded research that flows through the several pre-competed funding mechanisms to which DevLab is a party. All internship work is focused on building skills and confidence in real-world research and evaluation practices. DevLab projects available for intern assignment include the following:
    • Impact and Performance Evaluations: Students will have the opportunity to work on all stages of performance and impact evaluations, from initial consultations with donors and evaluation firms to the development of survey instruments and building of field-based data systems to the dissemination and communication of policy-relevant findings. Topics covered by the evaluations will range from natural resource governance to elections and political transitions. Depending on prior experience and skill level, students will support a range of tasks, including project administration and management, evaluation design, instrument development, data collection, analysis and reporting. Students might also be involved in the presentation of findings to donors and the drafting of policy briefs and communication products.
    • Evidence Reviews: USAID has commissioned a series of evidence reviews to assess the state of the literature and recent empirical evidence on a variety of topics relevant to Democracy, Human Rights and Governance programming. This includes a broad range of subjects from civil society and media to countering violent extremism to transnational global labor campaigns. Students will support the drafting of reports through literature reviews and background research, in addition to helping manage budget and concept note development. Students will also work on dissemination and communication of findings in the form of short briefs or newsletters and blogs.
    • Assessments: International donors often promote the use of sub-sector assessments for Missions undergoing strategy development, programming changes, and/or significant changes in country context. Students will have the opportunity to support the design, field team management, implementation, and drafting for a series of assessments for USAID. This will include team recruitment, budget and concept note development, and support for written reports and presentations, with an emphasis on analysis-based, actionable, operational recommendations that can assist with strategic decision-making and programmatic decisions. These project might also include fieldwork and briefings for Mission staff, USAID/Washington bureaus, State Department, and other stakeholders. 
    • Support for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems: M&E support includes the provision of technical assistance to USAID Missions and implementing partners on the design and implementation of M&E plans, processes, and activities. Students will be asked to support the development and maintenance of Performance Management Plans for USAID Missions to promote effective performance monitoring and evaluation. In addition, students may be responsible for developing specialized trainings, workshops and learning materials on M&E to build capacity for development officers.