After starting as a Marketing and Communications fellow in spring 2018, Danielle officially joined the TechChange team in a role split between Instructional Design and Creative. Prior to TechChange, she was a Program Associate at the Society for International Development – Washington Chapter, where she worked on event planning, graphic design, and marketing projects for the international development community.

We recently sat down with Danielle to learn more about her background and experience at TechChange. Welcome to the team!

Q: So, tell us more about yourself. How did you end up working in design and international development?

Well, that story begins where my-would-have-been medical career ends. Growing up, I always thought I’d end up in the medical field. But after completing a social innovation fellowship with Kaya Collaborative in the Philippines after my freshman year of college, I realized I could make still make a positive impact in the world without having to breakdown over biochemistry. I eagerly switched my major to International Relations and have been pursuing opportunities to work and think globally ever since.

As for graphic design, it was a random hobby I picked up in college. Designing t-shirts, social media graphics, event posters… it was through random projects like these that I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite. Over time, I’ve come to realize how important design can be for storytelling and social change, and I’ve been able to put that theory into practice here at TechChange.

Q: How did you first hear about TechChange?

I came across TechChange during my time at SID-Washington. TechChange was listed online as an Institutional Member and it sparked my interest due to its social enterprise business model, focus on education, and emphasis on user-centered design. As I was looking for opportunities after SID-Washington, TechChange immediately came to mind as a place where I could put my design, marketing, and communications skills to good use.

Q: What are some of your favorite parts of working at TechChange so far?

First and foremost, the people! Everyone at TechChange is incredibly talented and passionate about their work both in and out of the office. Finding a balance between working hard and having fun has been surprisingly easy thanks to TechChange’s supportive environment.

Apart from the people, I also love being able to work on important projects that reach a global audience. In my short amount of time at TechChange, I’ve already worked on a sexual harassment prevention training with USAID, an ICT in Education policy guide with UNESCO Bangkok, and started a project with the Ministry of Finance in El Salvador! I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Q: What excites you about Instructional Design?

Many things! First of all, it encompasses several of my interests – design, psychology, technology, among others. As an Instructional Designer, I love that I can continue learning and spreading knowledge on important topics like gender, education, etc. There are also many opportunities to be creative and I like the challenge of figuring out how to best design a course in a way that is effective and engaging.

Q: Anything you look forward to working on or learning at TechChange in the next year?

I’m excited to expand my creative skillset and work with clients to create high-quality and thoughtfully designed products!

Q: Lastly, what’s something that not a lot of people know about you?

That I spent two years of my childhood living in the Philippines. It was definitely a life-changing experience that helped me get in touch with my Filipino heritage and even learn to speak Tagalog!

We are excited to announce our first partner highlight featuring the TechSoup Platform! With a current selection of 22 courses and 8 learning tracks, the platform includes 7,973 learners from 88 countries — and still growing fast.

Founded in 1987, TechSoup has over 30 years of experience as a global nonprofit network that equips changemakers with transformative technology solutions and skills to create a more equitable world. This includes discounted software, hardware, services, and training, as well as opportunities to network and build community, including through a global partner network of 70 civil society organizations. TechSoup has reached 993,000 organizations, and delivered $10 billion in technology tools and philanthropic services.

When TechSoup first approached TechChange about expanding their programs to their first-ever online learning platform, we wanted to preserve and support what had already made their model so successful for delivering expert-led tech training and webinars designed for nonprofits, charities, and libraries. Just as each partner need and online learning community is different, the challenge is making our platform work for partner engagement models and not the other way around.

So in order to better understand our partners, TechChange sat down with Susan Hope Bard, Director of Solutions & Services at TechSoup, to learn about why they chose the TechChange online learning platform and how they’ve used it to address their needs.

“What I like about the platform is that learners drive it. So we’re not necessarily forcing learners to complete something in a linear fashion… I think that’s really important in terms of the way adults learn”

Getting Started with TechChange

Using the TechChange platform, TechSoup designed an online learning environment that put their audience – the nonprofit staff member – first. “[Nonprofits] all have different goals, missions, and reasons for taking courses,” Bard states, “so we provide people with the flexibility to take what they want and what they need.”

Knowing that staff members often juggle multiple roles in their organizations, TechSoup offers their learners the opportunity to engage with courses as they see fit. Learners can interact with one another in real-time through live-webinars or explore module materials and forums at their own pace. All live sessions are recorded and can be accessed at any time, making keeping up with content easier for learners.

Unlocking Nonprofit Institutional Knowledge

“What you find with nonprofits is a lot of people who have a good bit of knowledge about a particular topic but they need some scaffolded support in order to adopt technology to help them serve their mission.”

The TechChange platform is built for customization and content integration, which means TechSoup can easily provide the scaffolded support their audience needs. “There’s such a wide variety of uploadable content and the format is so varied that it can address the needs of any learner,” explains Bard. TechSoup integrates a variety of customizable content (videos, checklists, self-assessments, documents, etc) that make for a more engaging and exciting learning experience.

Should users want a structured learning approach, they can even enroll in a TechSoup learning track. TechSoup uses these tracks to curate courses along specific themes or skills. By following a track, a learner can develop a well-rounded foundation on a certain topic or build upon previous coursework in a sequential manner.

Track Performance and Learner Engagement

“Tracking learner engagement is important so we know how people are using the platform and what content is valuable.”

Discovering what content is most valuable for their audience is simple. As learners explore course materials and activities, TechSoup can use activity tracking tools to monitor student activities and interactions and track updates, comments, and replies. With the TechPoints system, where users are rewarded with TechPoints in exchange for completing activities like logging in or attending a webinar, TechSoup can see which learners are most engaged and what content they’re engaging with.

Our platform analytics tools help to capture essential information about event attendance, learner metrics, content engagement, and more. There’s no need to guess what works and what doesn’t – TechChange tracking tools can show you. Using this insight, TechSoup can design and develop even better courses for their learners in the future.

Looking to build your online learning community?

Let TechChange help. Learn more about our platform or request a demo

It‘s complicated to find a Chilango (people from Mexico City) who hasn’t experienced police bribery. What we call in Mexico as “la mordida” (the bite) is the most often, easy and normalized act of corruption in one of the countries with higher levels of corruption. According to INEGI (ENVIPE, 2014), 78% of the Mexicans said they perceived corruption in traffic police, by far the highest authority with this perception.

Despite the fact that we have some national and generic information about corruption, we don’t have open and accurate data on how police corruption operates at a local level, causing zero accountability and plenty of misinformation. This happens for two reasons: one, the levels of citizen reporting are too low, and two, no one receives charges. Could technology and social media help to understand and combat corruption in Mexico City?

There is an enormous opportunity. Smartphones and social media are growing among Chilangos. Also, there are already a good number of people who speak out against corruption in their own social networks, either by complaining, or denouncing it. This has the potential to push forward the anti-corruption agenda through revolutionizing methods of corruption detection, and analysis.

This is how a friend and I decided to develop #MeParólaPoli (a cop just stopped me) an app that seeks to expose the police bribery in the streets of Mexico City. This app lets you instantly report a potential act of corruption when a policeman stops you on the street. Just by pushing a button you can automatically generate sound evidence, provide data about a corrupt (or honest) policeman, and generate a report ready to be published. The app collects the data and presents it in a web page with maps and other visualizations. We developed the app with the intention to partner with transportation applications operating in Mexico City, such as Uber, Cabify, and Yaxi. These drivers are the most affected by street corruption, and therefore have the highest level of interest. Also, all of them have already a smartphone, access to the Internet and a community that could easily adopt this technology.

To see how it works, watch the video:

Anti-bribery and anti-corruption apps, sites, and social media groups are increasing around the world. I Paid a Bribe is an anti-corruption web platform that uses the transparency of the Internet to incentivize citizens in India who have been the victims of corruption to self-report details of bribes paid. There are several more: JamiiForums in Tanzania, BribeSpot in Thailand and Cambodia, Prijavi Korupcija in Macedonia, and others (see more here).

When corruption is so profound in societies, of course, major and national anti-corruption reforms are necessary, however, innovative local solutions can contribute in reducing the problem.

The author of this blog post wishes to remain anonymous.

By Ella Duncan

More than 300,000 people lost their lives in the bloody civil war that ravaged Burundi from 1993 to 2005. Almost twice as many were forced to leave their homes, slowly returning over the last decade. Today, the relative peace that Burundi so arduously achieved is again at risk; violent protests and rising tensions threaten to make the upcoming elections a moment of widespread chaos, rather than democracy and national unity.

Dr. David Niyonzima experienced the horror of the civil war first-hand. A member of the historically peaceful Quaker Church, which introduced him to peaceful social activism and helped him develop his spirituality, David survived a massacre in 1993. “I was teaching a training for young Quaker pastors when soldiers came to exact revenge, because they thought the students belonged to a rival ethnic group. I saw 8 out of my 11 students murdered,” he recalls.

David is now the Director of Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS). He has dedicated his life to understanding the impact of peacebuilding programs on the communities they involve, in order to design better strategies. It was his experience as a survivor that inspired his determination to make his country a more peaceful place.

For David, meeting the man who led the soldiers to come to kill him and his students was a life-changing experience. “I extended forgiveness to him,” he says. “It gave me a great sense of transformation, even though I had not planned for it. I was inspired that there must be a reason I was alive, that God wanted me to plant a seed of peace.” Invigorated by the experience, David started community programs to foster reconciliation and healing, but met challenges that seemed insurmountable. “I began to organize peace workshops and seminars to promote peace through Quakerism. Yet we were not making progress, so I asked myself – why are we not making impact? Trauma healing was the missing element of peace.

David believes that peace is not possible without trauma healing, that “treating the past” is the key component of peacebuilding. “Peace is not only the absence of fighting,” he explains. “It is also the restoration of relationships.” As a result, THARS takes a holistic approach to interpersonal development and relationships through Sensitivity Training, Trauma Healing Capacity Building, Individual and Group Therapy, and Self-Help and Self-Reliance initiatives.

To monitor and measure its work, THARS has adapted an existing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder tool to the context of Burundi. They assess participants as they enter a training or workshop, and then again six months later. Progress is measured on the basis of self-reported indicators of social behavior, the participants’ approach to conflict in their communities, and their decision-making strategies.

According to David, “the most important monitoring tool is testimony. It gives participants the opportunity to demonstrate through stories how they are self-reliant and addressing trauma on their own.” He strongly believes in the importance of developing a culture of speaking among the participants in THARS’ programs; “empowering people to speak truth about their history contributes to peace,” he says.

One of THARS’ current programs, Addressing the Past, focuses on villages where atrocities occurred during the civil war. It employs testimony and the growth of a culture of speaking to measure healing at all levels, using individual and group therapy to work through trauma issues. Addressing the Past doesn’t focus exclusively on those who were directly in the war, but also on people who are affected by the so-called remnants of war. David gives the example of wives who become victims of the untreated trauma of their husbands, when the latter return from fighting and engage in gender-based violence in the home.

David says that the major challenge in measuring THARS’ work is creating and communicating standard definitions of trauma and forgiveness. However, he and his colleagues have already made a lot of progress. “When THARS began in 2002, there was no discussion of trauma in Burundi,” he remembers. “We have brought awareness, and now people can see what trauma is, what to do to address it, where to go for help.”

David is hopeful that Trauma Healing will further spread as an accepted process in Burundi. He envisions it as an inclusive tool, that will unite all Burundians behind the common goal of emerging together, and stronger, from the violence of the past. “Peace will come when those who perpetrate violence join the healing process,” he concludes.

David Niyonzima Dr. David Niyonzima

Suggested resources to learn more

Visit THARS’ website at
Read a mid-term evaluation of THARS’ work with Search for Common Ground on a 2007 Victims of Torture program, funded by USAID here (
Explore Trauma Healing related resources on DME for Peace

About Ella



Ella Duncan

Ella Duncan is the DME for Peace Project Manager, DME for Peace is a project of Search for Common Ground which connects a growing global community of over 4,000 members to over 800 resources on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation for Peace and Peacebuilding programming. Ella received her B.S. from Cornell University.

This post originally appeared on DME for peace.
Featured image credit: Dave Proffer Flickr (Creative Commons License)

by mPowering and TechChange

mPowering Frontline Health Workers is delighted to introduce a new video, developed with TechChange, that explains how publishing content under a Creative Commons license can maximize the reach and impact of health training materials.

Frontline health workers play a vital role in delivering health services to their communities. Yet these health workers often lack the training and information they need to feel confident and to do their jobs effectively. NGOs, academics, and governments are all developing materials to improve training, but often the content is not widely shared and does not reach the people who need it the most.

To address the shortage of high-quality health training content, and to ensure this is available for sharing widely between health workers, their trainers, NGOs, Ministries and others, mPowering launched ORB.


ORB is an open source content platform that connects health workers and training organizations with mobile optimized training content and job aids. With a focus on quality, ORB brings together multimedia content (videos, audio and text files) that can be used to deliver educational programs, refresher training, or counseling tools for health workers.

All of the content on ORB is released under one of the six Creative Commons licenses. Publishing under a Creative Commons license means that authors can retain their intellectual property while allowing others to re-use and share their materials. In many cases, users can also adapt and translate the content for use in a wide range of contexts.

mPowering believes that health content is a public good. Training resources, health information and job aids for health workers contain life-saving information and should be shared as widely as possible. Creative Commons or other open licensing allows more people to access this information. It also saves time and costs so that training can happen faster; and content can be remixed, translated, and compiled into courses.

This video gives more information on what Creative Commons licenses are, how they work, and why they matter. TechChange developed the animation to represent diversity and access to information; and to communicate the significance of a Creative Commons license in public health training. Through the short and compelling animation, TechChange delivers this core mPowering message – make health content freely available – in a simple and powerful way.

To learn more about how you can apply Creative Commons licensing to your work, we invite you to watch the short video and read the FAQ on ORB, or to contact mPowering at

This post also appeared on mPowering Frontline Health Workers blog

By Innocent Hitayezu and Ella Duncan

How can peacebuilding programs get a better understanding of trust? This question is at the heart of Innocent Hitayezu’s work with women and issues of reconciliation, and continues to shape his work as a peacebuilder and evaluator in Rwanda.

Innocent was working with a reconciliation project that brought together widows of victims of the Rwandan Genocide with widows of perpetrators of the genocide when he questioned, How do we know we are bringing community relationships to the next level? During group discussions and interviews, he asked the women if they were working together outside of project activities, and the group replied positively that, yes the project was changing their interactions and attitudes in daily life. However, during individual interviews, he found that some women were still experiencing extreme challenges of reconciliation and that outside of the mandatory group meetings these two groups were not coming together. Individual interviews showed that the project was not building trust in the community in the long term. To Innocent, this moment demonstrated that the power of group level projects could be better harnessed with the inclusion of reflective monitoring and evaluation on the individual level subsequently having positive effects on entire family and community at large.

Innocent works at the community level to examine the root causes of conflict in Rwanda, and on the issue of post-conflict intercommunal trust. Innocent’s work explores how new approaches to monitoring and trust-measuring evaluations can strengthen programs aimed at traditional community building through reconciliation and those focusing on the peaceful reintegration of former refugees.

Innocent’s own experience as a refugee sparked his passion for community building and trust building. In 1994, to escape the war, he and some of his family members fled Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Upon returning to Rwanda the family faced the suspicion and distrust of those who had stayed behind and experienced the genocide. In search of community, Innocent joined with other repatriated refugee youth to create support systems for community action and economic opportunity through informal youth symposium.

This youth-led community building has been the foundation of his life’s work building peace in Rwanda through inclusive community development. Innocent says, “in some families, People are taught that communities are divided, but they must fight to say instead that ‘Rwanda is for all of us.’’

It is this conviction that reconciliation processes, in Rwanda and elsewhere, must be inclusive that inspired Innocent to pursue a career in Monitoring and Evaluation. Digging into the root causes of conflict, and extensively measuring trust within communities led Innocent to question, “Where is our evidence that we are making positive change?” Innocent, like many others in his field, believes that peacebuilders must be able to demonstrate success.

In the two decades since the Genocide, Rwanda has made great progress toward stabilization. As a result, Rwanda is often cited as a model of stability and security in East Africa. Rwanda’s security has come through traditional methods of community justice and reconciliation such as the Gacaca, a community court system, and Umuganda, which roughly translates to “coming together in a common purpose to achieve an outcome,” which is observed through a nationwide monthly day of service. Innocent believes that these traditional group based reconciliation methods can be strengthened through modern monitoring and evaluation methodologies. This is because traditional community-based methods are focused on the group level, which may miss tensions and challenges that participants are hesitant to express in front of their peers. In response to this challenge, Innocent advises that group reporting be validated by individual reporting, to make sure minority voices have an opportunity to be heard in the process of evaluating, and designing programs.

Giving space to individual voices also helps a program remain vigilant to the concept that progress should come from within the community, and that no pressure is applied from the top-down.

Based on his experience, Innocent sees individuals’ ability to express their views as an important indicator that communities are healing and maintaining peace. For Innocent, monitoring self-expression is key to understanding what is happening at the community and individual level.

Innocent is proud of the progress of reconciliation in Rwanda, and of the power and strength communities have drawn from traditions like the Gacaca and Umuganda. He is also hopeful that new approaches to reconciliation will help community trust and open expression continue to grow, enabling communities and individuals to build a lasting peace.

* * *

Innocent Hitayezu

Innocent Hitayezu is a peacebuilder and evaluator living and working in Kigali, Rwanda. He has over 13 years of experience, including consultancy work in sustainable agriculture, socio-economic assessment, strategic planning, market research and consumer behavior analysis, farmers’ trainings; 8 years working with International NGOs. He holds an MBA in NGO Management from Kampala International University (Uganda), a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology; and a Diploma in Philosophical and Religious studies.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 11.04.22 AM

Ella Duncan is the DME for Peace Project Manager, DME for Peace is a project of Search for Common Ground which connects a growing global community of over 4,000 members to over 800 resources on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation for Peace and Peacebuilding programming. Ella received her B.S. from Cornell University.

This post originally appeared on DME for peace.
Featured image credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo Creative Commons License

By Celestin Nsengiyumva and Ella Duncan

“Rwandan society has suffered the wounds of genocide. To make sure that the heart of the community is healed, to know that there is no more fear in society, we must work in peacebuilding evaluation.”- Celestin Nsengiyumva

When asked how he was introduced to M&E, Celestin Nsengiyumva says that he “joined accidentally”. After graduating university with degrees in applied statistics and development studies, he thought he would become an accountant or statistician. Instead he was accepted for a position as an evaluator. Celestin now describes M&E tools and methodologies as the “cornerstone of success” for peacebuilding programs in his homeland of Rwanda.

Rwanda has achieved stability since its civil war that ended in 1994, but continues to be challenged by its violent past. Celestin advocates for peacebuilding and its measurement, though he faces skepticism from those who say the nation should focus on more tangible things. To peacebuilding skeptics, Celestin counters that building peace creates opportunities for other change. He says “Peace is the building block of economic and social progress”, and believes that M&E is the path to a deeper understanding of what communities need to achieve sustainable peace.

Even before becoming an evaluator, Celestin believed peace and development programs must be contextualized to the needs of the communities they aim to serve. Working on a land dispute program with Landesa Rural Development Institute, Celestin was able to see how DM&E supports that contextualization through program design and learning. Land is a focal point in Rwandan society, and played major roles in the genocide and recurring conflicts the country has experienced. Around this key Rwandan issue of land, Celestin was able to be a part of the program from the very beginning. This involvement allowed him to collaborate with local partners and get feedback from partners and participants as he developed his M&E tools. By being involved and able to incorporate community needs and perspective from the beginning, Celestin believes he helped the program reach a better result, with meaning and relevance for participant communities.

As a method to achieve depth and contextualized understanding, Celestin uses and recommends storytelling as a tool to answer the questions of “How?” and “Why?” With Landesa, Celestin and his team used storytelling to collect feedback and success stories, adding personal elements to data. When communicating back their participant communities, showcasing stories of disputes the Landesa program resolved strengthened the presentation of the program’s value back to the community. And sharing practical examples and solutions to land conflict helped spread the program’s messages.

Celestin draws not only on his experience as an evaluator, but also three years he spent as a teacher for his guidelines on how to collect and tell a good story. For him the value of a story that it can be both instructive and engaging, so that the audience doesn’t only learn but also cares, and is able to draw parallels to their own challenges and strengths.

Celestin’s Guidelines for Collecting and Telling a Good Story in Evaluation:

  • Know what kind of story you need;
  • Prepare the questions you will ask, use the structure as a balancing tool to be open to unexpected statements and still stay on task;
  • Focus on using the story to identify the most significant change resulting from the storyteller being exposed to programming;
  • Do not get hung up on only looking for successes, collect stories on what isn’t working and what is slowing processes;
  • Ask for stories that include not only individual beneficiary experiences but also capture how those around them are affected.

The growth of Peacebuilding M&E in Rwanda depends on individuals like Celestin, who come to value and advocate for contextualized and reflective practice. Celestin’s hope is that there will be more opportunities in Rwanda to study M&E, so that stronger local evaluators can emerge and bring local insight to peacebuilding programs. Stories like Celestin’s will be repeated as peacebuilders are asked to expand their skills and roles, learning by doing, to learn what works, what doesn’t, and why.


Celestin Nsengiyumva
Celestin Nsengiyumva is an M&E professional living and working in Kigali, Rwanda. Celestin received his BA in Applied Statistics from the National University of Rwanda.

Ella Duncan
Ella Duncan is the DME for Peace Project Manager, DME for Peace is a project of Search for Common Ground which connects a growing global community of over 4,000 members to over 800 resources on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation for Peace and Peacebuilding programming. Ella received her B.S. from Cornell University.

This post originally appeared on DME for peace.
Featured image credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT) Creative Commons License

By Kevin Flanagan and Yuting Liao

A few weeks ago, my colleague Yuting Liao and I had the opportunity to attend MERL Tech—an industry conference of sorts designed to bring together M&E practitioners, researchers, technologists, and development professionals—on behalf of the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) team at the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

At NDI, the MEL team is always on the lookout for innovative M&E practice that can be effectively applied to the democracy and governance sector and this event seemed like an excellent opportunity to explore the “big ideas” and partake in a larger discussion: what can information and communication technologies (ICT) offer to monitoring, evaluation, and learning work as the pressure to integrate ICTs into many aspects of development programming continues to rise.

Offering nearly thirty presentations, the event provided us ample opportunity to sit back and revel in the opinions of the experts, as well as contribute meaningfully to roundtable discussions and collaborative brainstorming activities. As such, these are the five takeaways:

1. More data does not necessarily mean more learning

ICT can make data collection easier, however, it’s crucial to ask the question: is this the data we need? “Big data” is enticing and a common mistake of the novice researcher is: let’s collect as much data as we can. But will that data answer your evaluation questions or will it simply be distracting? While collecting larger volumes of data could certainly result in unexpected observations, if data collection is not strategically tied to your evaluation questions, it does not necessarily lead to better learning. Quality is more important than quantity.

2. ICT can increase the level of risk for the subjects of the evaluation

Data hacks happen, so start by being scared. Whether we want to admit it or not, ICT implementations introduce additional risks to M&E work, particularly when it comes to privacy and data security. And yet, too often M&E practitioners don’t address the risks until after a breach happens. Worry about this in advance and create a threat model to assess assets, risks, and vulnerabilities.

3. Be a data-led organization, not just data-driven

While ICT does help improve data accuracy, organizations that embrace a “data-led” mentality will empower their users to strive to better understand data and incorporate it into their decisionmaking processes. Successful learning initiatives rely on better interpretation and analysis of data, and ICT for evaluation is useless without capable analytical and sector experts.

4. ICT can expand your sample size, but be mindful of the unexpected challenges in sample bias

When collecting data, ICTs can expand the reach of your evaluation efforts, creating opportunities to capture data beyond the traditional “beneficiaries” of a program. However, the “digital divide” may perpetuate the issue of sample bias, and your results may be valid only for those segments of the population with digital access.

5. There’s no ICT “quick-fix” to improve monitoring & evaluation

While it’s possible to achieve a high level of methodological rigor through carefully designed ICT studies, it’s not always easy to do so—often being technically complex, expensive, and time-consuming. Most importantly, effective ICT is built on sound monitoring & evaluation strategies, and incorporating ICTs into M&E requires long-term institutional commitment and evaluation capacity development.

Despite the wide breadth of content, there was a common theme: “It’s ok to reinvent the wheel, not the flat tire.” These words spoken by Susan Davis during a five-minute “lightning” presentation, struck an unexpected chord with the audience, attendees and presenters alike. Whether these are words of comfort for the tech-timid or caution for the tech-tenacious, Davis pointed us all to the indisputable fact that it’s okay to look to new technologies to address old problems in development as long as we are all aware that any new process, tool, or approach has just as much potential to fall flat as did their predecessors. The successful integration of M&E and ICT is fully reliant on sound monitoring and evaluation strategies and realistic expectations.


Kevin Flanagan
Kevin Flanagan is a TechChange alum from Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course. He is a learning technologist on the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning team at the National Democratic Institute.

Yuting Liao is senior assistant for data analysis and visualization on the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning team at the National Democratic Institute.

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Featured image: Wayan Vota Flickr

By Zacharia Diing Akol and Ella Duncan

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be older than your country, to raise it and help it grow.” – Zacharia Diing Akol

The crisis that broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 has multiple root causes. A broken sense of national identity and lack of trust in the state at the national level, coupled with intercommunity grievances and mistrust, as well as high level of individual trauma and frustration have resulted in 22 months of a conflict that killed an estimated tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million. South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, yet the cycle of violence stretching back to the First Sudanese Civil War in 1961 continues today. It is in this environment of violence and war that peacebuilder Zacharia Diing Akol was born.

It was a long path for a child in war-torn Jonglei State to become a researcher who shapes the growth of a new nation. At the age of 11 Zacharia left his family to cross into Ethiopia by foot, traveling with groups of other children and young men, all fleeing the Second Sudanese Civil War. His personal journey has taken him around the world and back to South Sudan, where he now works as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Sudd Institute in Juba, supporting good governance and policy as part of what Zacharia calls the “collective journey” to build South Sudan.

When Zacharia first returned to South Sudan, he intended to stay for two weeks, but quickly became convinced his skills as a policy expert and researcher were needed to support the fledging nation. As Zacharia says, “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be older than your country, to raise it and help it grow.”

Zacharia believes data can effect positive change by helping people, organizations, and governments make better choices. The pursuit of this belief drove him to co-found the Sudd Institute.

The Sudd Institute is an independent research organization premised on the belief that public policy, especially in this key historical moment of state building in South Sudan, must be informed by reliable data, objective analysis, and thoughtful debate. Backed by data and evidence, Zacharia and the Sudd Institute make policy recommendations to the new government.

Men in IDP camps in South Sudan

Men gather in a South Sudanese IDP Camp, Photo Credit USAID

For Zacharia, giving solid evidence-based recommendations is the best way to effect smart and responsive policy. Furthermore, Zacharia believes evaluations are for posterity, that they capture the realities of the new country – he says, “People will look back in the future and ask, what were they thinking? What were they doing? The work of the Sudd Institute will help people understand what was going on during this time in South Sudan.”

Zacharia hopes that his work will inspire other civil society organizations so that evidence-based policy recommendations become the norm in South Sudan. The next project for Zacharia and the Sudd institute is to include trainings for CSOs so that local organizations can provide their own recommendations for action, and policy advocacy efforts across South Sudan may be strengthened by evidence. Through sharing information and skills, Sudd hopes to make their goals and impact sustainable. By empowering more groups to engage in evidence based advocacy, the institute’s work strengthens public policy lobbying power to inform government decisions.

The Sudd Institute also works though public research publications, including a weekly review, monthly brief, and quarterly special report. These publications aim to give everyone – from civil society organizations (CSOs) to government officials – the research they need to make informed decisions about the trajectory of South Sudan. Moving forward, the Institute is increasing the influence of their work by forming more direct relationships with CSOs using their publications.

These goals are especially important in South Sudan because as a new country, that was formed by and continues to be defined by conflict, “It is not just important to end conflict, it is about HOW you end it. The process is as important as the ending.” Zacharia sees that there must be a collective effort to address the issues candidly with honest data and evaluation, because he says the country has this choice: “deal with the issues, or the issues will deal with you”.

“It is not just important to end conflict, it is about HOW you end it. The process is as important as the ending.”

Visit the Sudd Institute’s website at
Read their policy briefs and other publications at

Zacharia Diing Akol
Zacharia Diing Akol is the Director of Training at the Sudd Institute. Diing has extensive experience in community outreach, government and organizational leadership. He is currently working on M.Res./Ph.D. in political science at the London School of Economics. Diing’s research interests include the role of civil society organizations in peacebuilding, traditional leadership and democratic governance, post-conflict reconstruction, faith and public policy, and the dynamics of civil war. Diing holds a Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego and two Bachelor’s degrees from Michigan State University in Public Policy & Administration and Policy & Applied Economics.

Ella Duncan
Ella Duncan is the DME for Peace Project Manager, DME for Peace is a project of Search for Common Ground which connects a growing global community of over 4,000 members to over 800 resources on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation for Peace and Peacebuilding programming. Ella received her B.S. from Cornell University.

This post originally appeared on DME for peace.

Featured image: Daniel X. O’Neil (Creative Commons License)

This article was originally published on Stanford Social Innovation Review. 

By Nick Martin & Christopher Neu

On November 3, 1961, John F. Kennedy’s universal call to fight poverty was formalized in the creation of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Today, the rising cost of education means only a select few can answer that call. At USAID and implementing organizations, higher levels of leadership are mostly closed to those with only a bachelor’s degree. An elite master’s degree is especially costly—a two-year master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School costs $154,688.

Students passionate about building a better future are increasingly being asked to mortgage their own in return. Students share the growing burden of student debt across the country: The median level of indebtedness for a Master of Arts degree jumped from $38,000 in 2004 to $59,000 in 2012, after adjusting for inflation. But the ability to repay debts is not equal across fields: Social workers are, in comparison, highly unlikely to make a salary sufficient to repay those debts without hardship. The result is that students are getting squeezed between inflated education requirements and constrained salaries at a time when the world most needs them to tackle complex global challenges.

To overcome the barriers of insufficient access to education, universities are turning to massive open online courses (MOOCs) to teach about sustainable development. For example, Wesleyan developed How to Change the World, Stanford created Mobile Health Without Borders, and even UC Berkeley has a new initiative to build a Philanthropy University with Acumen and NovoEd. But scaling a lecture hall through video content is easy; it’s creating an affordable and effective classroom experience that’s hard.

Further progress will require a revolution in online pedagogy as much as improved technology, or possibly even an unbundling of the graduate degree from the traditional 40 three-credit courses. As employers better identify the discrete skill sets and competencies they need, students will be empowered with clarity about where they want to spend their time and money to enter the workplace. Education and accreditation have never been more important for workplace success, but the in-person college experience may soon become an unaffordable luxury.

Digital Pedagogy post photo

Chris Neu and Norman Shamas facilitate a TechChange course in the TechChange studio

At TechChange, we believe that we can achieve a guided student experience, a network of dedicated alumni, and an expansion of career opportunities all online. Fortunately, our students believe the same. In the last month, we’ve seen record enrollments in our new low-cost online diploma program, with more than 120 applicants from more than 40 countries already signing up for our 16-week program on technology for monitoring and evaluation. These students come from organizations and governments such as UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Peru, and the World Bank. Employers have similar confidence in this model; several are sponsoring group enrollments in the diploma program.

Online educators have much to learn from one another. In building out the program, we have drawn heavily from in-person and online models of education that are pushing boundaries, including:

  • Amani Institute: Has a five-month post-graduate certificate program in applied skills for changing the world (now in Kenya and Brazil).
  • General Assembly: Known for its intensive, 12-week boot camps in computer programming and design, and has a great track record at placing graduates in better-paying jobs.
  • Khan Academy: Set the standard for engagement in online learning through quality content and personalized learning paths.

There is no clear answer to the problems of unsustainable careers in sustainable development. Universities are expensive, and these jobs are highly complex. However, by unbundling the graduate school experience, and examining how we can recreate and improve it online, educators might just find new methods for launching the next generation of development practitioners unburdened by lifelong debt.

Last week, the United Nations hosted the Sustainable Development Summit in New York and convened interactive dialogues on six themes including ending poverty and combating climate change. Perhaps it’s also worth discussing how we ensure that the careers of the people required to address these problems are also sustainable. Rethinking graduate school seems like a good place to start.


Nick (@ncmart) is the founder and CEO of TechChange. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown and George Washington Universities.

Chris (@neuguy) is the COO of TechChange. He holds a master’s in democracy and governance from Georgetown University.

This article was originally published on Stanford Social Innovation Review. Featured image credit: Russell Watkins, DFID Flickr.