To read a new, open-source Winrock Guidance Document for COVID-19, click here.
When Niry Ramasinjatovo was growing up in Madagascar, she saw first-hand the benefits of international development, how “it creates opportunity and resilience and self-reliance.” Now Ramasinjatovo, an award-winning professional on the cutting edge of development practice, is heading up Winrock’s new Analytics, Gender, Inclusion, Learning and Evaluation (AGILE) unit, as the organization significantly expands and enhances its monitoring and evaluation, management and information, and gender equality and social inclusion services.
The AGILE team will expand and formalize the data collection, analysis, reporting and utilization practices of Winrock projects across the world, building on a culture of evidence-based decision-making and moving toward an exciting new digital-first approach.
AGILE will support learning and evaluation based on data, disseminating lessons learned throughout the organization and the broader development field. The new team will also build staff capacity and formalize management and information system (MIS), including such practices as mobile data collection through open-source platforms and the use of efficient databases and business intelligence tools. AGILE’s goals include the automation of indicator calculation and analysis to better measure the number of people Winrock’s work is benefiting and the impact of this work, as well as deploying data for learning reports and predictive forecasting and modeling. Ultimately, AGILE aims to create paper-free M&E — an aspiration at this point but an important one to Ramasinjatovo, who plans to implement it with a gradual, learn-by-doing approach.
“I’m thrilled to be leading Winrock’s efforts to expand data collection and analysis practices,” says Ramasinjatovo. “Life is about continuous improvement, about all of us trying to get better. Using the latest technology and best practices allows us to make decisions based on the latest data — which helps everyone, beneficiaries as well as funders.”
Ramasinjatovo has often been on the leading edge of new technologies. In her first full-time job as a GIS technician she set up participatory monitoring systems to measure deforestation in Madagascar. Soon she transitioned to a role in knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation. A decade into her career, she was managing 100 employees across projects with budgets of more than $32 million in Madagascar. Along the way, she earned a Ph.D. in social sciences from the Université de Paris Descartes.
By the time Ramasinjatovo moved to Washington, D.C., in 2017 she had worked as a chief of party, technical expert or M&E specialist in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone. She has been routinely acknowledged for her work by donors and professional organizations, including USAID’s “Digi” innovation award to her former team in Ghana and InterAction’s Certificate of Excellence for Leadership in Promoting Gender Equality and Women and Girl’s Empowerment for her use of M&E data to provide insight on gender results.
“Niry’s recruitment illustrates Winrock’s commitment to the highest level of development practice and the use of digital technology,” Winrock Associate Vice President Amanda Hilligas said, announcing Ramasinjatovo’s appointment. “We are excited to be combining and expanding our monitoring and evaluation, management and information, and gender equality and social inclusion services in this way.”
The new AGILE unit has five teams, including Data Science and Visualization with Samuel Sesay and Bobby Martinez; New Business and Quality Data led by Director Carol Stoney; the Project Systems team; the Evaluation, Learning and Gender team with Dina Scippa and Tricia Ryan; and the Management Support team with Ramasinjatovo and Kyle Karber, Ph.D. More staff will be added soon, Ramasinjatovo says.
The AGILE team recently released a MERL Response to COVID-19 to help Winrock project teams assess the prospects, approaches and considerations for monitoring and evaluation activities when there are limited opportunities for data collection in the field. The response includes guidance for routine data collection, ideas on the use of evaluations, surveys and studies, and suggestions on reprioritizing MERL activities. Winrock has released the MERL Response as an open-source document, sharing these ideas with the M&E community at large.
Ramasinjatovo’s early interest in data and using it to help others still makes her want to get up every morning. “M&E really helps in measuring if we achieved what we were supposed to achieve, whether we brought change and how we can gather all that knowledge to do a better job both during implementation and for future programs,” she says. “It just helps to make international development better, and the feeling that I get when I help to directly unlock our potential for change will always be rewarding.”