As Tostan continues to expand the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) to new communities, the quality of data and the consistency of collection and treatment procedures remains a high priority.  Data drives the mechanism by which Tostan measures the effectiveness of its programs—information that is used to continuously improve the program on the one hand, and to demonstrate effectiveness to potential donors on the other. 

Tostan’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) department, charged with collecting and analyzing data from all of Tostan’s programs, has made significant structural changes as of late to reinforce its capacities. The most recent of these is the incorporation of five new team members comprised of young men and women, who serve as MERL “Focal Points”, connecting M&E operations on the ground in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, and The Gambia, with MERL International in Dakar. These Focal Points will help bridge the gap between the national and international levels of Tostan’s data operations. 

MERL Focal Points are now based at the National Coordinations of each of the five countries.  Their role is to collaborate with the National Coordinators to plan and carry out M&E missions on the ground, and translate and adapt tools to the local context when necessary.  They work closely with program supervisors and facilitators to ensure that protocol is understood and followed correctly.  They are also charged with ensuring the completeness and reliability of M&E data, organizing and entering data, and producing preliminary mission reports for MERL International, and sharing statistics with National Coordinations.

The establishment of this new liaison role coincides with the launch of Tostan’s CEP in 150 new communities in Mali, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea, as a part of the Generational Change in Three Years Campaign (GC3Y). This moment is a unique opportunity for Tostan’s MERL team to better synchronize its activities across countries and to become more efficient in collecting and analyzing data in a variety of areas.

The presence of a Focal Point in each Tostan country will enable a more organized and consistent flow of information throughout all levels of the organization, across countries and projects, and help to raise awareness about the importance of collecting quality data on a regular basis.

By Grace Saul, Monitoring, Evaluations, Research, and Learning (MERL) Volunteer, Tostan