Rebalancing grantee/donor power for better MEL

Though it’s not often acknowledged, funders are almost entirely reliant on grantee MEL practices to understand the impact of their resources in the world.

But grantee MEL capacity varies tremendously, and because donors are focused primarily on their own MEL needs, an approach that treats all grantees as the same often skews internal incentives for relevant, honest, and adaptation-focused MEL.

The MEL team in the Open Society Foundations’ Economic Justice Program addressed these gaps by creating resources and approaches to address two underlying challenges: (1) differences in the MEL capacity of grantees and (2) “one-size-fits-all” reporting requirement that do not work for grantees or for donors.

To provide tailored, “right-fit” capacity support for its grantees, the team therefore developed an internal MEL questionnaire to assess MEL capacity across major building blocks of good MEL practice. And to make reporting and proposal writing more learning-focused and ultimately more effective for both grantees and funders, the Open Society Foundations’ Economic Justice Program redesigned its asks. The MEL team introduced greater flexibility with a menu of reporting options and developed clearer templates and guidance to demystify the process.

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