The Covid-19 global pandemic has affected multiple levels of everyday life, including conducting evaluation work. The pandemic has caused a ban on international and domestic travel and the ability to gather in groups, which are necessary when conducting in person key informant interviews and in person focus group discussions. DevTech evaluations are adapting their data collection methodologies to ensure personal safety while maintaining rigor.
There are several mechanisms that can be employed when conducting remote data collection in pandemic settings. Key informant interviews can take place over the phone or though an alternative platform like WhatsApp or Skype. However, this is only possible if communication connectivity can be guaranteed, and more fruitful if the interviewee feels comfortable responding, which may be less likely from afar. To adjust, one should expect a little more time on each interview to build a repertoire with the respondent. Another consideration is focus group discussions. Focus group discussions occur in closed settings with multiple people, however if all parties have access to internet, they could be conducted remotely through video chat. If this is not possible, a different source of data collection could be used to capture the same information. One could implement surveys among the same group of participants to answer the same evaluation questions. The survey could be employed by phone; by calling individuals and writing down their answers or through text messaging or online if feasible. Lastly, and only if it is safe to do so, third party monitoring techniques can be utilized. Meaning local staff could conduct interviews and surveys with participants at a safe distance along with handwashing, protection, and fever checks.
There are other creative ways evaluators can conduct data collection, including utilizing firms that can provide spatial mapping of sites or utilizing remote survey providers. If possible and only if approved by the client, evaluators could also consider moving budget line items or suggest extending the evaluation timeline to best meet current Covid-19 demands.
The DevTech M&E team is working to provide guidance and solutions to our units and methodological support to implementing partners. Oleksandr Rohozynsky (Senior Technical Adviser and Evaluation Specialist) developed guidance for our Nigeria MEL platform to adjust implementation of monitoring and evaluation activities; Meredith Kerrigan (Senior M&E Associate) adopted it to this guidance (COVID Evals.PNG) for M&E unit staff; Jerome Gallagher (embedded in USAID/PPL through the ISSC project) and the DevTech team at USAID Data Services, are working with PPL to develop guidance for remote monitoring due to COVID-19 for USAID.
Luckily, we live in an age of internet and can respond and adapt to unprecedented situations. It is hopeful the pandemic will be contained and end soon, however in the meantime it will not prevent DevTech from conducting evaluations.