LWR’s Values: Innovation

As long as our vision remains unachieved, we are restless. We seek relentlessly to learn, adapt, and grow. Our goals are so compelling and human suffering so pervasive that we are unsatisfied with the status quo. With entrepreneurial eyes, we are careful to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). With creativity, we build new partnerships that strengthen capacities. With imagination, we embrace leading-edge ideas that enhance the quality of our ministry. LWR’s Values

As the Director of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for LWR, my team’s main goal, is to help LWR objectively measure whether or not what we’re doing is working.  My job is to help our programs learn and grow and improve.  We’re a new team this year, and we’re working on tools, systems and processes to help our field staff and partners monitor and evaluate our projects better.  I really like LWR’s innovation value, because it so perfectly characterizes my philosophy about the importance of M&E in our work, and why I love that work.

LWR’s investment in our team very much speaks to the fact that “…we are unsatisfied with the status quo.” Good evaluation methods look deep into a community and objectively measure results — real change in the community.   I call it the “so I can sleep at night” factor.  I work long, hard hours and am often away from my family. I am restless and unsatisfied with this until I know that we’ve collected good primary data with representative samples, triangulated our findings with a few different approaches, worked closely with our partners and — with all of that — our information confirms that the project’s impact is clear and sustainable.

I like this text in particular because it has such a positive tone.  In my job as an evaluator, there are times when people don’t like to see me coming. It takes a lot to convince people that I’m not the ugly step sister to the IRS, or the police’s internal affairs.  Sometimes when you shine a light into the corner of the closet, you find dust bunnies that you are embarrassed you didn’t know were there.  I often tell people what they don’t want to hear, such as the times when community leaders have been painting a wonderful picture of a project, but when you dig deeper and interview a wide selection of community households, you find a whole other story.  It happens. This is tough work we’re doing, make no mistake. Part of my job is to create a culture of learning, so that when our monitoring or evaluative information tells us that a project is not being as effective as it could be, we stop, reflect as to why, and look at how to adjust things to get back on track.

The nuts and bolts of what I do are to seek always to improve — to measure, verify, learn , grow and share.  But the fun part for me is the rest of this value — to take advantages of new opportunities, build partnerships, and apply our creativity and imagination to our work.  Those things are about HOW I do my work. That’s what makes it exciting.  A lot of the work we do is difficult to measure effectively, so we have to always be networking and seeking new ideas from the outside, to see what others have done and how they’ve done it.  Once we have evaluative information, we often have to think outside the box to figure out what to do with the information and how we’ll use and share it.  New research methods, new technologies and new applications of old technologies are being developed every day. New ideas for information sharing and new approaches to learning are floating out there.  The best part about it all is when our coworkers and partners find that “aha” moment:  the intersection between the project activities and the analytical information — what it’s telling them and their ability to use it — and then shout this epiphany from the rafters,  all to better the services provided to beneficiaries.  That’s innovation. It’s not necessarily flashy, but it may just be the right combination of processes and information that allow us to creatively problem solve, ensuring we are making a meaningful difference.

Photo: Narayan Gyawali, LWR’s Asia Regional Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, works with LWR’s Sri Lanka staff