TechChange courses are designed for busy young professionals. In any of our courses, you will find yourself taking the course alongside international development field and headquarter staff, university professors and students, freelancers, and so many other kinds of eager learners. Today, we are excited to chat with Eva Erlach, who is a full-time law student in Vienna, Austria and also works part-time for Ground Truth Solutions. Eva recently took our Technology for Data Visualization course. We caught up with her to see how she was able to apply what she learned in the course.

How did you come across the TechChange course?
At Ground Truth Solutions, I am regularly tasked with producing reports on the perceptions of crisis-affected people during humanitarian actions. In order to visualize the data, I was looking around for the best resources to learn more about data visualization. I came across TechChange’s Tech for Data Visualization course on Twitter and my employer helped me pay for the course.

Have you taken online courses before? What did you think of the TechChange course?
This was actually my first online course and I was very impressed. The ability to interact with other participants in the course was great! Also, since the live events with guest experts were always recorded, and I could revisit the course materials for four more months, it really gave me flexibility to manage my time to make the most out of the course. There were a lot of resources — which is always better than having less — and that gave me freedom to either just get an overview of the topic or dig deeper on the topics most useful to me.

Are you new to data visualization?
I have actually been doing data visualization for a while, and mainly on Excel. I also knew of the other data visualization tools but wasn’t sure which ones were good ones and how to really work with them. This course gave me the insights I needed on different data visualization tools. It also helped me see that you can do much more data visualization just with Excel. Most of the other data visualization software tend to be expensive, so learning more about data visualization on Excel was great.

How did you use what you learned in the course at Ground Truth Solutions?
I worked on Ground Truth Solutions’ three reports on community perceptions in the Nepal crisis. As part of the Inter-Agency Community Feedback Project, Ground Truth’s role is to provide the government of Nepal and aid agencies with real-time feedback from affected people and recommendations based on that feedback.

Our audience for this report were agencies involved in the humanitarian response in Nepal. Since the agencies wanted to be able to print and disseminate the reports to field staff as well as email to their branch offices, we decided to do a pdf report instead of an interactive dashboard. I used R for the analysis and created the graphs on Excel. I then created the maps on Inkscape, and used a python script for the labels and colors.

A snapshot of Ground Truth Solutions' Community Survey Report 3

A snapshot of Ground Truth Solutions’ Community Survey Report 3

I was able to visualize the data in a better way because of the course. The reports are available on our website to download and we have been promoting it all over social media.

How has the course been useful to you?
The course really allowed me to understand data visualization on a deeper level, and to realize that we really need to think about the audience for any visualizations you work on and the kind of message you are trying to communicate through the visualization.

Would you recommend this course to a friend or colleague?

Interested in learning more about how to use technology for your organization’s data visualization needs? We start our next Technology for Data Visualization online course on Monday, November 23! Join participants like Eva in this four-week online course!

About Eva
Eva Erlach is a program analyst at Ground Truth Solutions. The aim of Ground Truth is to support humanitarian actors to systematically listen and respond to the voices of affected people. Eva holds an undergraduate degree in Development Studies and is currently finishing her law degree at University of Vienna, specializing in human rights. She has volunteered on social projects in India and Uganda and has experience in the field of asylum law and domestic violence.

One of the things that sets the TechChange platform apart from other online courses is the network you are immersed in. Today, we are excited to highlight one of our alumna who took the network she built within one of our courses, into the incredible work she’s doing. Devjani joined us in our Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course a few months ago, and her curiosity for the role of technology in M&E led her to take a deep dive in one of the tools she was introduced to in the course. We got to catch up with her on how the course has influenced her work.

How did you come across our Tech for M&E course?

I was on a year-long sabbatical in London from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in India. During my sabbatical, I wanted to learn more about the role of technology in monitoring and evaluation. I was looking for a course that would not only provide me a sound knowledge of the system but would also be cost-effective for me. So, after a few google searches, I came across TechChange’s course on Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation and immediately signed up!

Why were you curious about the role of tech in M&E?

NHPC’s power projects are located in far-flung villages, from Jammu and Kashmir in the North to Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in the North-East. The project locations are very remote without any infrastructure, roads, or communication, making survey, investigation and project completion very challenging. Due to the remoteness of these projects, we have often noticed that the socio-economic surveys were not being conducted very diligently. We have often found that there are lot of discrepancies and inaccurate data collected on project-affected families during Social Impact Assessment Studies. Manual data collection in these remote villages has been cumbersome, and the staff have to carry GPS, cameras and papers into the field. Sometimes, the affected villages are so far out that it takes more than a day to reach it by foot, and in that case, the data collected in paper surveys are re-entered manually into Excel sheets, leading to a high margin of error.

After the manual collection of data, the monitoring is done through site visits (once or twice a year) and the data collected by external consultants doesn’t always reach the NHPC, making it difficult to have baseline information on the families affected by the project.

I knew there had to be a better way to collect data and do M&E!

How did TechChange provide you with the information you needed to make an impact?

In the TechChange course, I was introduced to so many possibilities of ICT in M&E, but I was hungry for more and wanted to take an even deeper dive. From the various M&E tools I got to know through the TechChange course, I was interested in learning more about a data collection tool, Akvo FLOW. I had attended a guest expert session with Marten Schoonman of Akvo, so I reached out to the course facilitator to help me get in touch with him. Marten put me in touch with the Akvo India group and I was able to attend a five-day training session in India with the Akvo team to learn all about the tool and how well I can use it in my organization.


Picture from the Akvo FLOW training in India

I attended a 5-day training, organised by the India chapter of the Akvo group with 40 other attendees. Everyone came from diverse backgrounds; some were tech savvy and highly educated while others were handling smartphones for the first time. It was a great opportunity for me to really dive into one specific tool that I was curious about.

Tell us more about Akvo FLOW

Akvo FLOW is a data collection platform that is used on inexpensive mobile phones with an Android platform. It has helped me with all of the following:

  • Getting the GPS coordinates
  • Obtaining authentic data from inaccessible respondents
  • Surveying a greater geographical area at lower costs
  • Ease of obtaining data on the dashboard
  • Using it in areas where there is no mobile network
  • Managing a database of respondents who can provide loads of data that can be used for baseline studies and longitudinal impact assessments
  • Geo-mapping of sampled areas and use of media such as pictures, audio and video,
  • Creation of identity cards
  • Data analysis and evaluation

Since NHPC’s projects are located in remote areas all over India, we can use Akvo FLOW to collect data from all projects in a standardised format and have it all in the same platform.

Any advice for someone considering a TechChange course to break into the ICT4D field?

Today, ICT has become an indispensable tool to bridge distances and spread the seeds of development in the remotest corners of this world. For funders and development workers, monitoring in remote areas is a daunting task, but the expansion of ICT has now paved the path towards limitless possibilities, providing easy access to information to make informed decisions. ICT4D is not just about computers, mobile phones and the internet, but it is also about help, support and capacity building of people who are using them and linking them with the right communities.

Here are five reasons I would always recommend TechChange courses:

  1. Extremely helpful and cooperative course coordinators. I was totally new to ICT when I enrolled for this programme, so I was prepared to feel lost. But with the help of facilitators and guest experts, I could get hands-on experience with the Akvo FLOW tool. This has opened a new door of opportunity for me and I am excited to implement what I learned to my work.
  2. Course material is beyond just PowerPoints. It’s very interactive with plenty of networking opportunities, group discussions and presentations, live question and answer sessions, feedback from other participants, video chats, etc. making the whole learning process very engaging and enjoyable. There is plenty of learning opportunities from course participants as well, who are very experienced and coming from different parts of the world with different sets of skills and approaches.
  3. Courses are very well crafted and exhaustive yet comprehensive. Excellent study materials that are up to date.
  4. Connecting with guest experts who are leaders in the ICT4D industry. It’s very difficult to get access to such a range of good study materials and get to hear from the experts themselves.
  5. Courses are easily accessible. All the course material, even live events are recorded and archived for those who could not attend the live sessions. Then, the course materials are available even 4 months after a course ends, which gave me ample time to catch up and get a grasp of the whole syllabus.

What’s next?

It is going to be a daunting task to introduce ICTs in our public sector, but I am going to take up brainstorming sessions with senior officers from various organisations and try to understand how to effectively use these tools in our crucial surveys and monitoring of community development and CSR programmes and also use the same for conducting Social Impact Assessment studies.

“Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way they worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow. To succeed, not only do your people have to change the way they act, they have got to change the way they think about the past.” – Former Chairman of KPMG International, Jon Madonna.

So my journey begins here. I know it’s an uphill task to convince the system to accept this Akvo FLOW tool, which opens a whole new world of data transparency and authenticity, and successfully integrating the tool in our various development programmes.

I would really like to thank the whole TechChange Team for giving me this opportunity to share my views and experience with you all. I am going to come back to them over and over for many more courses that would not only ensure progress in my professional development but also give me inspiration and satisfaction to work successfully in the field of social development.

Interested in learning more about data collection, you can still join our Tech for Data Collection and Survey Design course that started on Monday! Want a more immersive experience? Check out our Tech for M&E Diploma program!

About Devjani
Devjani has been working for over 18 years in India with a successful track record in the area of Environment, Social Development, CSR and Sustainability. Her experience extends across large hydro and mining projects within the government & NGO sectors and international funding agencies. She has travelled extensively in India to conduct a range of investigative studies. Devjani is a Registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a postgraduate degree in Public Systems Management with specialisation in Environment. She has also done a Post Graduate Certificate course in Environmental Impact & Assessment with specialisation in Strategic Environment Assessment.

Featured image: Isha Parihar from Akvo India trying to calibrate the GPS in the field

In August, along with announcing our Tech for M&E Diploma program, we kicked off a M&E Professionals Series, where we will be talking one-on-one with M&E professionals to give you the inside scoop on the industry.

For this second post in the series, we are featuring an interview that one of our alumni, Stephen Giddings conducted, with Janet Kerley, Senior Director, Monitoring and Evaluation Practice at Development and Training Services, Inc (dTS), a Virginia-based consulting organization that does considerable work with USAID.

Janet Kerley
Janet Kerley is a master evaluator and an accomplished trainer in evaluation and performance measurement. As Senior Evaluator in the Monitoring and Evaluation Practice at dTS/Palladium, she provides technical leadership for evaluations in the ME unit, provides technical direction on design and field methods, and supervises the preparation of the evaluation reports. As Chief of Evaluation, Research and Measurement for the Peace Corps, she established an impact evaluation system at Peace Corps.

Ms. Kerley was the Team Leader for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance, US Department of State, leading a 200-member inter-agency team to develop standard indicators for the 2007 Foreign Assistance Reform reporting tool. She worked at USAID in the Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination, CDIE and as the Monitoring and Evaluation Office in the Bureau for Africa and the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia. Prior to joining USAID, Ms. Kerley was a Senior Research Associate at Aguirre International. She has lived and worked in many countries in Latin America, Africa

S: How has technology changed the way M & E is conducted over the past decade in international development?
J: The change has been remarkable! A decade ago, most of the data gathering and analysis work was all paper-based, making it difficult, time-consuming, and costly. Especially in overseas environments, it took considerable time and effort to gather, transcribe (and often translate) and analyze the data. But today, the tech tools have made data collection and analysis more efficient and save time and money.
However, there is still a considerable “digital divide” between the much more tech savvy young people and the older professionals originally trained using SPSS (or even earlier)

S: Does paper-based data collection still have a place in M&E today?
J: Yes — in certain circumstances paper-based data collection may be preferred.

In very rural areas where electricity may not be available, where batteries for electronic devices cannot be charged or where internet connections or mobile phone services is inconsistent or not available, paper-based data collection is still the best option.

Not everyone is comfortable with data collection using electronic devices, but they may be more open to paper-based questions.

S: What are some of the pitfalls of some of the popular tech-based data collection tools?
J: With so much tech available, it is easy to get carried away.

Some less experienced or less than fully trained data gatherers may lose sight of the fundamental questions the monitoring or evaluation is trying to get at. If evaluators lack sufficient training in sound principles of research, they may be tempted to substitute technology for sound reasoning and good judgment.

Some data collection tech tools may also have a tendency to collect too much data, some of which may be irrelevant to the task at hand. USAID, in particular, is burdened by data overload where data management systems fail to filter out data that is of little use and complicates the monitoring and evaluation practices.

S: What challenges have USAID Missions faced when integrating new technologies into their M& E functions?
J: By and large, USAID Missions have been quite open to technological improvements to M&E functions. That said, there is still a “digital divide” where younger employees (including local staff) who have grown up in the digital age are more comfortable with and more adept at using new technologies to enhance M & E. But more senior and older USAID staff seem generally open to embracing and appreciating the advantages that new technologies can bring to M & E while leaving the technical analysis and the new data gathering tools to younger techie staff. USAID staff have generally been very receptive to training in using new M & E technologies to their advantage.

S: Have new evidenced based technologies made decision making by senior USAID staff easier and more informed?
J: Most USAID Mission Directors recognize the value that good evidence on performance can bring to the achievement of program results, and the added clarity that good data and visually well-presented documentation can bring to decision making.

UNDP in Kigali, Rwanda (Creative Commons image)Photo Source: UNDP in Kigali, Rwanda

S: What are the advantages of mixed methods evaluations?
J: The most important starting point for an evaluation is doing the research required to understand what questions you want answered. Only then should you begin to look at evaluation methodologies to acquire necessary information.

When done at a proper scale, well executed quantitative data collection and analytical methods can bring statistical rigor and clarity. For example, the scale of some of the evaluations done for USAID’s food security (Feed the Future) programs has generally provided reliable data. Unfortunately, USAID Missions sometimes do not make available sufficient budget to assure that sample size for quantitative methods is sufficient to draw reliable conclusions. This is where qualitative methods can help to fill gaps.

Storytelling, an evaluation tool, is one of the most useful qualitative data collection methods. Sometimes quantitative data collection methods do not allow beneficiaries to open up and provide adequate and reliable information, but they react much more positively if they are allowed to tell a story. If you get enough good stories they can provide insights and nuances that purely quantitative methods cannot. Thus mixed method evaluations can provide more reliable evidence of performance than quantitative or qualitative methods.

S: Do you think there is a bias towards quantitative methods in international development because of a lack of free and easy to use qualitative tools?
J: Not at all. Many USAID evaluations make good use of qualitative methodologies. A
decade ago, there was an overuse of “the windshield wiper” approach (an evaluation that is not given time to do adequate field work and they report what they observe “through the windshield.”) to evaluations but more recently qualitative methodologies have become more sophisticated and reliable and can provide a lot of extremely useful information for decision makers.

S: What questions should we be asking to select the best technology for M & E?
J: Evaluation planning should begin with framing the research questions — what is it that we need to learn? The preferred technological solution should be one that can best answer the research questions and must also take into account cultural sensibilities. It is very crucial that technology be viewed as a tool, and not as a substitute, for knowing the basic principles of research.

Stephen Giddings, a TechChange alum, has served for 25 years as a Foreign Service Officer with the USAID, retiring in late 2005. For most of his USAID career, he specialized in managing housing and urban development programs, serving in USAID offices in Panama, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Russia and Rwanda, as well as Washington, D.C. During his last four years with USAID he was the Chief of the Policy Division for USAID’s Africa Bureau.

For the past ten years Mr. Giddings has been an independent consultant providing assistance to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD, and consulted with USAID, the International Real Property Foundation (IRPF), among other international development organizations. He serves on the Development Issues Committee of the USAID Alumni Association and is Co-Chair of the Africa Work Group in the Society for International Development’s Washington, D.C. Chapter (SID-Washington). Prior to his USAID career, Mr. Giddings managed low-income housing development programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was Director of Planning and Development at the Boston Housing Authority. Mr. Giddings received a BA in political science from Wesleyan University and an MPA degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.


Hope you enjoyed our second installment of our M&E Professionals Series! Don’t forget to follow our blog for the next post in the series!

Interested in engaging in similar conversations with M&E professionals like Stephen and Janet? Join us in our upcoming course TC211: Technology for Data Collection and Survey Design that starts on October 19. If you want the whole package, you can join our second session of our Tech for M&E Diploma program

At TechChange, we pride ourselves in teaching our participants the crucial skills needed for a career in social good. And how do we find out what those skills are? We go straight to the source! In our new M&E Professionals series, we’ll be talking one-on-one with the pros who are recruiting for these very positions.

2015 was marked as the International Year of Evaluation, so it’s no wonder that M&E is increasingly becoming a sought after skill in many organizations today. We spoke with Michael Klein to learn more about the ideal skills a M&E professional should have and how to get them:

Mike Klein Headshot

Michael Klein is the director of International Solutions Group (ISG), a company that works with governments, U.N. agencies, international organizations, NGOs and other companies to improve the implementation of humanitarian aid and development programming projects.

Mike’s work is at the self-described intersection of ‘old-school’ M&E and ‘new-school’ ICT, working with partners to build on established M&E strategies, streamline data flows and analysis systems, facilitate access to key information, knowledge, reporting and data in a fast, reliable and secure manner.

Q: It’s an exciting time to be an M&E professional. Do you see a big need for young professionals who are trained to take on this kind of work?

M: Yes, it is definitely an exciting time to be in my field. Just looking at the types of conferences and forums being held on the subject, it’s really clear that M&E is a rapidly developing focus in our field. Specifically, I see M&E growing in two separate, but overlapping, areas.

Standard M&E careers: If you were to search job opportunities listed on Devex or Idealist, they are the typical of M&E positions you would find, ones that take a traditional approach (i.e M&E personnel are used to provide managers the with analysis and data they request.) These opportunities are certainly growing, as organizations will always need highly trained staff help to address their M&E.

Beyond the standard label of M&E: Just as in other sectors, skillsets such as analytics, knowledge management, data collection, and information sharing are highly valued in M&E, and the field is increasingly embracing individuals who have these skill sets. This is especially true for people who understand analytics, and how data can be collected, used, and analyzed.

As more and more players in the field are using new technologies and tools for data collection and analysis, a college graduate or young professional entering the field of M&E has a great opportunity to make his or her mark on the industry by leveraging his or her digital knowledge to provide guidance to some of the most prominent development organizations.

Q: What do you look for when hiring?

M: First off, I think it’s important to have a passion, an area of expertise that you enjoy. As a profession, M&E can take you in myriad directions, and it is important to identify what type of work in which you most want to engage. A strength of my team at ISG is that everyone has differing professional interests, ranging from gender equality to how ICTs can catalyze development. Having these range of specialties strengthens what we can offer clients, and when looking at new hires, I look for individuals who are already established or are on their way to becoming an expert in a field or sector.

Aside from passion and subject-matter expertise, people need to appreciate the big picture. When we look to make hires, we want an individual who understands what organizational performance means, ranging from back-office activities such as business development and marketing, all the way through to front-line programming at the field level. If you’re interested in M&E, you have to understand that organizational effectiveness is made possible by a complex interplay of many elements. Having that general appreciation for how organizations function, the types of struggles they face, and how you can improve upon their performance, are keys to success in this field.

isggroupMike with his group at ISG

Q: What does career progression look like for someone in M&E?

M: The reason I was drawn to this field is that there is no set path. Before working in M&E, I worked in Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), which attracted me for similar reasons. When I worked in M&A, my clients represented a wide range of sectors, and I worked with management to help these organizations restructure, fundraise, find new investors, and generally position themselves to be more successful at what they were already doing (sound familiar?). Monitoring and evaluation is no different. People come to the field from a variety of different backgrounds—such as corporate finance like me, IT, agriculture, and plenty of others, including academic programs focused on M&E—and they serve clients representing the same diversity.

Because everyone enters the field with different skills, it is hard to say exactly how one progresses in the field. Someone entering the field after studying M&E at a university will likely have a fairly technical background may take a M&E support role within a larger organization and begin to assume more responsibility over the years. Whereas, if you’re transitioning into the field with an already established skill set from a different sector, you’re likely to take a different direction and provide either consultancy services or specific project-level guidance related to your expertise.

Q: What role do you think technology plays in M&E?

M: My personal take is that technology in and of itself is not necessarily transformative. Whether M&E is done on pen and paper or done using state-of-the-art IT solutions, good M&E is good M&E. However, technology has allowed organizations to quickly come up to speed with regards to implementing more robust approaches to M&E. If an organization is just shaping their M&E approach, using a technology solution can offer ease and expediency. The way most of these tools are constructed is based on industry best practices, so their structured, hierarchical approach is what we think of as good M&E. Clients who use these tools are then trained to capture their data in a systematic way that has the end in mind.

A lot of our clients initially say, “I really like that heat map,” or cite another specific visualization they see proved by an M&E tool and ask how they can create it for their program. This then launches into a discussion about how to collect data in a way that can deliver these types of reporting and highlight what is most important. It is much harder to go the other way.

Q: Any other pieces of advice you have for people considering the TechChange diploma in Tech for M&E?

M: Know how your study applies to what you want to accomplish and set some goals for yourself before you get into the nuts and bolts of the diploma program. If you come to these courses with a general idea of what skill gaps you want to address, you’re going to be very well placed to make the best use of the TechChange diploma program.

When I was taking one of TechChange’s M&E courses, I knew that I wanted to leverage the new skills I was developing to enhance my company’s marketing efforts. Thus, when I studied data visualization, I created multiple infographics for ISG, using tools that I would not have come across on my own. This was one of the best parts of the class: discovering cutting-edge tools in the field that I could utilize immediately.


That’s all for this installation in our M&E Professionals Series! Be sure to check out our Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation diploma program – deadline to enroll is September 4!

If you have taken a TechChange course, you know that the participants are all doing amazing things wherever they are in the world. Some go on to start their own organization, some collaborate with other participants for future projects, and some take what they learned in the course and apply it in their current projects. Ameneé Siahpush took our Tech for M&E online course in January and has since been leading tech integration in Trickle Up’s M&E programs.

Tell us about yourself

A: I’m a Pacific Northwesterner who moved to New York City in 2010 after spending the prior few years in Latin America. My current role at Trickle Up is Senior Monitoring & Evaluations (M&E) Officer, where I support our economic and social empowerment programs in India and Central America. My work aims to increase our understanding of sustainable livelihood development for highly vulnerable populations, including outcomes around food security, health, coping mechanisms, and social empowerment. I’m particularly interested in expanding our use of participatory methods to improve and deepen our program learnings and developing simple mechanisms for sharing knowledge across participants, partners, staff, and offices. (If you have any ideas, please let me know!)

What does Trickle Up do?

A: Trickle Up is an international NGO that works to create a world in which it is unacceptable for anyone to live in extreme poverty. In collaboration with local partner organizations, we empower and support the poorest and most vulnerable people to develop the confidence and knowledge to build sustainable livelihoods by 1) providing training, coaching, and seed capital grants to jumpstart microenterprises; 2) forming savings and credit groups to build financial capital and literacy; and 3) improving access to information and financial, health, and social services. We also provide technical assistance to other development organizations and government agencies to help them deliver social empowerment and economic programming that reaches “last mile” populations, including women, people with disabilities, and marginalized ethnic populations living on under $1.25/day in rural areas. Trickle Up currently works in India, Central America, South America, West Africa, and the Middle East.

How did you hear about TechChange?

A: My colleague at Trickle Up learned about the Technology for M&E course through a Yahoo M&E group, and quickly forwarded me the information given my interest in the topic.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Tech for M&E course?

A: I feel very fortunate to work for an organization that has invested in a robust M&E system, including the use of mobile data collection for some of our projects. However, as we scale our programs, it’s essential that we adapt our M&E systems to become more efficient and effective across an increasingly large and diverse number of partners and program participants. Integrating new technologies and tools is key in this adaptation process – yet, I knew that I needed very practical guidance in understanding which combination of technologies and tools would be best suited for Trickle Up’s current and future programs. The Tech for M&E course felt like the perfect companion for exploring these issues. It offered practical tools and resources, connection to a wide network of experts, forums to collaborate with other NGOs, and flexible access to course materials to accommodate my travel schedule. I also really appreciated that the discussions were geared towards international organizations who often work in remote, rural places where connectivity and electricity challenges must be considered in their M&E tools.

How has the course impacted your work at Trickle Up?

A: I entered the course with a deep interest in exploring technologies to increase the efficiency and quality of our M&E data. I came out of the course with the language, framework, tools, and resources to actually take the lead in designing and implementing new technologies within Trickle Up’s M&E system. Since completing the course, I have successfully added “M&E tech upgrades” into our upcoming year’s strategic plans. This includes a detailed roadmap of how we will integrate and utilize mobile data collection and a data visualization/reporting platform across all of our projects to increase access to real-time data for project management, promote cross-regional learning, and, ultimately, improve our ability to direct resources towards combating extreme poverty. Yes, it’s a very lofty goal, but one that is greatly enabled by simple technologies that help to ensure our program data is more efficiently and effectively used.

What would be an advice to other participants taking a TechChange course? How can they get the most out of it?

A: If possible, approach the course with a specific, tangible challenge that you hope to confront in your daily work. Keep this challenge in mind as you choose which webinars to attend or resources to explore, and then organize your course notes in a way that will be easily accessible in the future.

Another obvious, but important, suggestion is to be an active participant! Connect with fellow students, ask questions, follow up with presenters, experiment with the recommended tools. Luckily, the course provides a wide variety of ways to engage with the materials and people, despite being in different time zones, and everyone felt very approachable and enthusiastic. We’re all current or future tech nerds, after all.

You can join participants like Ameneé in our next Tech for M&E course in September. If you are looking to dive deeper, check out our brand new Diploma Program in Tech for M&E

About Ameneé
Ameneé is the Senior Monitoring & Evaluations Officer at Trickle Up, where she supports their economic and social empowerment programs in India and Central America. She holds a BA in sociology and psychology from the University of Oregon and an MPA, with a specialization in international policy and management, from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University (NYU). As an NYU Gallatin Global Fellow in Human Rights, Ameneé partnered with Global Workers Justice Alliance to conduct research on gender and migration in Oaxaca, Mexico, and has spent multiple years in Latin America, more broadly, volunteering with small-scale farmers and studying Spanish. Prior to Trickle Up, Ameneé was a Program Evaluator at Morrison Child & Family Center in Portland, OR, and a Research Supervisor at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Outside of work, Ameneé loves to play soccer, dance, and spend time in the mountains.

TechChange alumni are always doing amazing things. They have launched mHealth apps to help with HIV prescriptions in South Africa, started mapping projects for maternal health in Ghana and more. Today, we feature an alumna from our Mapping for International Development course, Dominique Narciso!

Since taking our course last year, Dominique has gone on to found her own mapping platform, AidWell. We caught up with Dominique to hear more:

Tell us about AidWell
D: AidWell is a crowdsourced mapping and collaboration platform that would make it easy and simple to know the development stakeholders within a given issue area, such as youth development or water.

What inspired you to start AidWell?
D: During my time at Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service Program, I began to see the emerging trends in international development, where new players were growing in influence and new types of innovations were being implemented across the globe. I thought to myself, what if there was a way to see how all of these organizations are connected, visually?

Then I took TechChange’s Mapping for International Development course and really saw the possibility of visualizing this information, which pushed me further to make AidWell a reality.

Why a mapping platform?
D: If you are looking to learn about what issues different organizations are working on today, there is currently no mapping tool that consolidates this type of information in an easy and user-friendly way. Right now, it is a tedious process to find that out; you may do some google searches, reach out to your networks, or laboriously look at some NGO directories.

AidWell steps in to make it easier to just see it all in one platform on a map. It would serve US-based organizations looking to make connections with local development stakeholders and for in-country organizations looking to collaborate and learn from one another.

Dom with her team Dominique with her AidWell team

Where is AidWell right now?
D: Since starting-up, I’ve conducted a multitude of informational interviews with international NGOs, foundations, social enterprises, and donors to learn more about the need and potential viability of a mapping platform. Currently, our small AidWell team is conducting mini-experiments to understand demand and pinpoint the major challenges faced by potential users, when looking for local information of organizations.

Where do you see AidWell in a few years?
D: My vision for AidWell is to create the leading stakeholder mapping platform for the international development field, a mapping platform that opens up the possibilities for new connections and innovative ways for sharing knowledge. In the next 3-6 months, the AidWell team will be working on proving the concept, building a minimum viable product, and testing the platform in three pilot countries.

Some potential uses for this platform would include:

  • A first stop for program designers and donors when gathering information to design partnerships, cross-sector collaborations, or collective impact strategies
  • A resource for local organizations to see who is working on the same issues in their country, and potentially a virtual space for collaboration and learning
  • A country stakeholder map service for grantmakers and implementing organizations, that inform funding and stakeholder engagement strategies

Where does AidWell fit in the bigger picture?
D: With the Sustainable Development Goals being released the end of this year, there has been lots of conversations around cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships. One goal that stands out in this sentiment is Goal 17: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.’

This one goal is a sign that the way development is being done will continually change, as we reimagine the way organizations work with one another, how knowledge is shared across sectors and across borders, and how unlikely players can contribute to innovative approaches for development. I believe AidWell can be a part of this bigger goal, by helping organizations make that first step in knowing and engaging with the right organizations from day one.

Check out Dominique’s platform, AidWell here. If you would like to help with AidWell’s research and/or share ideas on mapping, please get in touch with Dom at with the title ‘TechChange: AidWell Suggestion.’

Interested in learning more about how mapping can impact social good, check out our upcoming course on Mapping for Social Good that begins on October 26, 2015.

About Dominique
Dominique Narciso is a skilled relationship builder, creative implementer, and forward-thinking leader in the international development space. She has over eight years of experience working on community development initiatives, social enterprise, and economic development. She is the Founder of AidWell, a start-up organization working to catalyze cross-sector collaboration through a web-based mapping platform to connect and map out players in the development space. She worked at Social Impact as a Business Development Manager, designing their international processes for future business opportunities. During her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, she co-designed several youth, women, and economic development initiatives with community members and local leaders. She has a Master’s of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a dual BA from UCLA in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies.

Today, we’re excited to share an interview with TechChange alum Ladislas Hibusu! Ladislas has completed 5 courses and is currently taking his sixth. Learn more about his journey and how TechChange has impacted his career below.

1.  What got you interested in taking TechChange courses?

I first heard of TechChange from a colleague who was a TechChange alum. At the time, I was grappling to understand my new role as a Global Health Corps (GHC) fellow at a local NGO that was dealing with behavior change. My new position meant that I had to have certain skill sets if I were to succeed. It was around that time that my colleague shared TechChange’s TC111: Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation course. After reviewing the course content, I jumped at the opportunity to sign-up.

2.  After completing your first course with TechChange, what made you enroll in more courses?
After taking TC111: Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation, I was particularly fascinated with the themes, exercises, case studies, featured articles and reading materials but most importantly the top-notch industry experts from the live sessions who provided great insight on real-time trends. The recorded videos have also been a useful tool for expounding on themes such as mHealth, mAgric, mEducation, mFinance and other topics. The industry experts such as Joel Selaniko gave great insight into their area of expertise. However, TechChange facilitators like Norman, Kendra and Jennifer will tell you that what I am particularly passionate about are the great tech tools and platforms that are a big piece of the course. The unique nature of the tools and the way the recorded and live demos are presented is something anyone wanting to go further in their career could not resist.
I have positioned myself as a competitive data engineer not with a degree in an engineering field, but with the willingness to learn and lean on the shoulders of the experts that these TechChange courses have introduced me to.

3.  How have TechChange courses impacted your career?
The most significant impact that TechChange courses have offered me are the skills that have translated into making me competitive in the job market. While taking TC111, I was engaged as a Data Quality Consultant in an end-line evaluation of the project impact. Immediately after, I was hired as an independent Technical Monitoring and Evaluation consultant with two reputable international NGOs. Sooner rather than later, all I will need in my work life will be my eyes, head, hands, a mobile phone, laptop with Internet connectivity and the appropriate state of the art software. I will have earned my reputation of “getting jobs done” beyond the hire’s expectation.

4.  What is your advice for other participants taking a TechChange course? How can they get the most out of it?

Research broadly: Go beyond the course content, especially in their areas of interest, as this will enable them to know exactly what to ask from the expert speakers in order to get the maximum benefit.

Utilize the networks/connections: TechChange connects us to global experts and thought leaders in their own areas. For instance, I found that the project that one of the experts and TechChange alum Mira Gupta was working on was similar to what initially drove me into taking the TechChange courses. Engage with other participants too as they have a wealth of experience on this topic. I have received valuable resources out of the TechChange platform from the colleagues I met via the courses, which have been a great boost to my career.


About Ladislas

Ladislas Headshot

Ladislas Hibusu is a researcher and a Monitoring and Evaluation consultant. Over the years, he has come to love making research inquiries and helping students and companies on baseline, mid-line and end-line evaluation of their project impacts. He has also worked on the technology side of data documentation. Before working with Jhpiego as a consultant, he was a Global Health Corps fellow in the 2013/14 year and also consulted with Futures Group Global Inc. as a Data Quality Consultant. After receiving his college degree in Library and Information Studies and Demography, he spent time working as a Librarian and life coach at an organization that helps orphaned and vulnerable children realize their dreams. Ladislas can be found on Twitter at @tracykhibusu


How has TechChange’s course affected your career? We would love to hear your story too! Reach out to us at

When setting new year’s resolutions, we often set goals that include getting healthier, improving our relationships, and advancing our careers. We are fortunate to live in an era where the Internet contains an enormous amount of educational content including online courses that can keep our skills sharp and expertise relevant in a competitive global job market. However, it can be tough to keep up with the all the webinars, articles, blog posts, industry publications, and online courses with life’s competing demands.

Here are some tips on sticking with your professional development goals through online learning from several members of the TechChange alumni community.

1. Define your end goal
Be clear on what you want to get out of the online class. Catherine Shen likes to approach online learning by looking at two specific types of benefits: 1) concrete skills or knowledge, and 2) a course certificate to provide evidence of these new skills or knowledge. “By clearly defining what you want from an educational experience, you are more likely to keep motivated throughout the course with your goals you want to achieve in mind. This goal-oriented mindset is especially important to maintain the discipline needed to regularly log into your courses to earn that certificate when you’d rather be eating chili and watching Game of Thrones,” says Catherine.

Perhaps your goal might include getting a new job or switching to a more social mission-driven career. If that is the case, look at an interactive online learning experience as an investment toward achieving these goals by networking with professionals who could connect you to your next opportunity. Maybe your goal might be to get up to speed on any new industry vocabulary/jargon that you need to be aware of for your current or next job.

2. Schedule in your online learning time like you’d schedule a meeting.
Block off a regular time for your outside learning. Routines can be helpful to structure in time set aside, which might be a daily time or a weekly day for a few weeks. With this regimen in place, you’ll mentally prepare yourself and budget the time needed to get the work done.

If your online course has live interactive learning components like several TechChange courses do, make sure to take advantage of these live sessions as much as possible.

According to mHealth alumna, Lauren Bailey, it is very important to “be diligent and set aside time every day to log into the course — even if you can only spend 20 minutes. Try to attend live events and make sure to ask questions that enhance the discussion.”

Serial TechChange serial alumna Carolyn Florey also agrees with Lauren about the importance of live events. “Make attending live events a priority. Look at the live event discussions as part of your continuing education,” says Carolyn. “Rarely will you get an hour of access to these industry experts. “

According to Mobiles for International Development alumna, Ivy McCottry, who now works at AT&T, “The ‘live event’ sessions are very helpful. Even though these sessions are recorded and archived, it’s good to sit in live because you can contribute questions in real time and process the context of what’s being presented. You also don’t have to mull over content independently – you can send questions immediately or expand on an idea that has been mentioned. When attending these events, I always made sure the facilitator knew I was there at the session so my interests would be covered in the presentation.”

3. Focus on what you’re most interested in and what is most relevant for you.
As mentioned earlier, knowing your end goals helps you focus when your time and energy is limited. “The more you know precisely what you want to gain from the course, the more you will get out of it as you can prioritize those topics and ask questions that will focus discussions on areas you care about most,” said Ivy.

According to mHealth alumni, Dr. Layla McCay, “Various exercises [in TechChange courses] are tailored to what I happen to be interested in so I don’t have to complete every single thing. I can just see what’s relevant for me and take a deep dive into that.”


4. Integrate and apply coursework into your current (or dream) job

Especially for professionals who get professional development funding from their employers, it can be very helpful to set expectations with a supervisor before beginning a course to discuss how to apply learnings into current or future projects. Applying your new skills/knowledge to your work could mean starting a new project or sharing your learnings with a team-wide presentation or brown bag lunch sharing session. By making your employer aware of your professional development goals and let them know how you’re going to use this class next in your work to benefit an organization, you can further your career.

Mobiles for International Development alumnus, Trevor Knoblich, recommends leveraging TC105 or other courses within your own organization. “If you’re advocating for your organization to adopt new mobile tools and applications, you will have a variety of useful materials from TC105 to help make your case,” says Trevor.

Many TechChange alumni also use their online courses as a testing ground to experiment with new technologies in their current work projects. For example, Sairah Yusuf at Generation for Peace did so by visualizing the participants of a training program by creating a map of participants across the Middle East using MapBox. A team based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City at FHI 360 Vietnam created mHealth pilots to address HIV based on the knowledge they acquired from taking their mHealth online course as a group.

5. Make connections by participating as much as you can.
Ivy highly recommends networking with guest speakers and course participants. “If speakers represent organizations that you want access to, definitely enroll in the course. The access that TechChange provides at this dollar value is unheard of and a great return on investment,” said Ivy. “Read profiles of other people who were taking the class and alumni as well. I was definitely inspired by the success stories of Carolyn Florey and Trevor Knoblich who advanced in their careers with the help of TechChange courses.”

Carolyn also suggested for online learners to “Read through other participants’ comments and questions. Often, other participants will have experience you don’t, so they’ll have some informed questions and insightful comments.”

According to Trevor, “You’ll ultimately get more out of the course the more engaged you are with your classmates, the professionals who are presenting, and the TechChange staff.”

Lauren agreed. “Be sure to reach out to classmates and find out more about their backgrounds and career paths. It’s great to have connections from all across the globe!” Throughout the duration of the course and even after, there will be opportunities to connect with course participants online and offline, from Washington,DC to Lusaka, Zambia.


Any other tips that have worked for you? Please share your online learning tips in the comments or tweet us @TechChange. Don’t forget to invest in your career by taking a course with us.

This feedback on mhealth concerns a field mission I undertook in July 2014. I visited one of Handicap International Federation’s HIV and disability projects being implemented in the region of Ziguinchor in the South of Senegal. Like many other organisations represented by colleagues in TechChange’s mHealth course, Handicap International is strongly exploring how mHealth can best fit in and with what we can offer not only to our primary focus on people with different impairments (our main targets), but also to various communities confronted with different issues, be they related to development, relief or emergency settings..

I realised that our project was provided with two android phones from CommCare to collect data as a “pilot activity” (not initially designed in our project, but rather as an add-on to our M&E system and tools). The project M&E officer in charge was supposed to learn about how it works and two project community mobilizers were supposed to collect specific information to feed into the beneficiary and activities database.

What happened with this pilot was quite interesting. Given that there was no specific planning or budget assigned to this seemingly exciting additional activity, and after discussions with CommCare, they graciously provided the project with two phones and basic training to the staff. Project staffs started the process of collecting data, but it didn’t work because there was the phones had no credit. So, they added credit and restarted the process of collecting data. Data were entered and things seemed to be on the right track. Knowing this, the M&E specialist in charge wanted to synchronise the system to see how data looked like. It didn’t work. After another brainstorming, the team learned that they had to set other aspects on the phones so that data can reach to the other end. Furthermore, given that this was an “extra activity”, problem-solving was not that fluid with CommCare as it was not the priority of neither party. And barriers continued, to the point that no one really bothered with whether the phones were useful to the project, to the beneficiaries, to the staff, nor to the system.

A few lessons learned from this minuscule pilot trying to use mobile technologies for data collection (and arguably for other aspects of project management and global development):

  1. If rationales are well thought through at project inception, it would be important to include planning, budget and dedicated human resources for the utilisation of mHealth within a project.

  2. Having “free phones” may not be the best incentive to projects when it is not tied to any specific performance indicators associated to bigger project goals.

  3. Excitement about mHealth is insufficient; there needs to also be interest combined with strong planning and field testing, coupled with systematic follow-up from the mHealth provider. This aligns with what mHealth guest speaker Ray Brunsting told us in the course about the importance of a project preparation phase that regularly iterates and progressively constructs what is needed so that the mobile mechanism works smoothly thereafter.

  4. Careful, regular, and frequent feedback is needed especially when getting an mHealth program is in its initial phases.

But this experiment didn’t deter us to pursue our desire to use mHealth and mainstream disability. We decided to partner with AMREF (France) which has tremendous experience in using mHealth. This project will start shortly and is going to use mHealth in the context of maternal and child health in Senegal. It will bring the expertise of two different organisations for the benefit of mothers and children, through a specific project, planning and budget, and through disability lens.

All this to say that using mobile phones to promote public health is not that straightforward. However, when we attempt to consider lessons learned and good practices from others, it tends to work better. So thanks so much to TechChange, all participants in the mHealth online course, as well as from our great speakers and facilitators for sharing all the mHealth wisdom

Interested in learning more about mHealth pilot programs and successfully scaled projects across the world? Register now for our mHealth online course which runs from November 17 – December 12, 2014.

About Muriel Mac-Seing

Muriel Mac-Seing

Muriel Mac-Seing is an alumna of TechChange’s Spring 2014 mHealth: Mobile Phones for Public Health online course. For the past 12 years, Muriel Mac-Seing has dedicated her work to community health development in Sub-Sahara Africa and South and South-East Asia, in the areas of HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and disability. Currently, she is the HIV and AIDS/Protection Technical Advisor to Handicap International Federation supporting country missions and national programmes to include disability for universal access to HIV and AIDS and protection services for all. She co-chaired the HIV and Disability Task Group of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) from 2010 to 2012. Since May 2014, she is also a member of the Human Rights Reference Group at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Trained as a nurse, she served an underprivileged and multiethnic clientele in the regions of Montréal, Canada.


Treating HIV with antriretroviral treatment (ARV) medication can be very challenging, given how complicated it can be to dispense these pills correctly. Especially in remote clinics throughout the world, it can be difficult for clinicians to distribute ARVs because they require customized mixes of medication based on the specific symptoms of individual patients in order to be effective.

To help clinicians to correctly prescribe antiretrovirals, Dr. Musaed Abrahams, an alumnus of our mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health online course, has launched a mobile app for managing antriretroviral treatment (ARV) medication in South Africa.

The Aviro HIV mobile app acts as a virtual mentor for clinicians to easily consult for proper ARV (Anti-retroviral) initiation and treatment during the patient consult. Designed for Android and based on the current South African guidelines, it provides real-time, immediate feedback and guidance for the clinician, so that excellent and reliable care can be delivered to every patient. Following a care checklist, it gives clinical prompts aiming to educate and raise the standard of patient care.

Aviro featured on a national news broadcaster in South Africa

We asked Musaed to tell us more about his new mHealth Android app below.

 1. What personal experiences of yours inspired this app?

I have worked for Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) for over 6 years, training clinicians throughout Southern Africa on the best practices on HIV Care. Through my experience I quickly recognized some of the challenges nurses and clinicians face day to day with changing guidelines and lack of training resources. I also recognized that many nurses were using technology informally, and were conversant with their mobile technology.

My aim was to create an app that can bridge the training and information gap with the already existing technology – particularly with mobile phones.The Aviro HIV app was created with this goal at the forefront. Providing a mobile tool for doctors and nurses, using technology to simplify the initiation and management of patients on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), with connectivity providing further referral support for complex patients.

2. What impact did the TechChange mHealth online course you took have on designing and launching this app?

This mHealth online course gave me an overview of different components of mhealth and how they interlink – specifically monitoring and evaluation, communication and decision tree support tools which were my interest. I valued most the practical examples/case studies and insights from the developing world and their implementations of mHealth projects, and challenges that they needed to overcome. Although I was already conversant in human-centered design, the HCD-focused workshop in the course rounded out my knowledge in this area while being engaging and informative.



3. What exactly went into creating this Aviro mHealth app?

It was a team effort involving those with both HIV technical expertise as well as mobile development. We collaborated with the best medical expertise on HIV including James Nutall, Graeme Meintjes, and Ashraf Coovadia to design treatment algorithms. We incorporated human design thinking principles when working with African digital artist, Jepchumba to do the user experience (UX) design in collaboration with nurses on the ground in South Africa. Funding was provided with a partnership with MTN Foundation, Aviro’s technology partner. In addition, we partnered with nurse and clinician organizations, the Anova Health Institute and Southern African Clinician Society, for testing implementation of the app.

4. How successful has it been so far? (Any metrics you can share?)

We just launched the app at Social Media Week and Southern African Clinicians Society last week and have had over 300 downloads by South African nurses and doctors. we have interest from the SA National Dept of Health in adopting the app nationwide. Currently, we are working on an iPhone/iOS version of the app and will keep updating the app with new versions as we get more downloads and feedback.

Clinicians testing Aviro

Clinicians test Aviro

Download the app here on the Google Play store

About Musaed Abrahams

Musaed Abrahams

Musaed has worked and trained in Southern Africa as a HIV Training coordinator of MSF (doctors without borders). With over 5 years experience of coordinating HIV courses for nurses and doctors, with trainings in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe he has developed innovative educational approaches to medical training.

Interested in mHealth to use mobile phones to improve healthcare delivery? Enroll now in the same course that Musaed took, mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health which runs from November 17 – December 12, 2014.