IFES Alum Reflects on IFES Experiences
From 2007 to 2013 Lauren Serpe designed and analyzed a variety of national surveys and focus group public opinion research projects at IFES. She also contributed to monitoring and evaluation at IFES, including M&E trainings, indicator development and pre/post evaluations. During her time at IFES, her work spanned more than 18 countries in all major regions, including field experience in ten countries.
What are you doing now?
I am on the Program Advancement Technical Team at Pact and am the Results & Measurement Advisor for Pact’s portfolio of governance programs worldwide. In this role, I am responsible for monitoring, evaluation, research and learning for 12 projects globally—this includes programming in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Cambodia, South Sudan, Nepal, and Colombia. The scope of these projects range from civil society strengthening and good governance to peace-building. The focus of my position is working hand in hand with in-country M&E and Program Officers to develop baseline study instruments and analysis, midline and endline evaluations, and learning reviews to shape current and future programming. In addition to my technical assistance to specific programs, I also write pieces for the organization and outside clients. Currently, I am co-authoring a handbook with the Governance Team on the Good Governance Barometer—a tool similar to a community scorecard used to assess government performance and prioritize advocacy areas. Soon after joining Pact, I also revised one of my team’s M&E manuals. It has been a busy first six months!
What is the most exciting project you worked on during your time at IFES? Can you describe what made it interesting for you?
I really loved so many of the projects I worked on during my time at IFES, but I particularly enjoyed working on the Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa (SWMENA) because it was a data-driven project at its core. In addition, women’s political empowerment is a passion of mine, which made working with our partners very rewarding. It was also exciting to work on the Ukraine Election Day Assessment where we surveyed polling officials to assess their confidence and performance and we also completed polling station checklists that determined accessibility for persons with disabilities and compliance with voter education requirements, among other aspects. Finally, it was always interesting to work on the national survey and focus group analysis, disseminate the data and see its application. Overall, I loved my job at IFES and loved working with my DC-based and field-based colleagues.
What aspects of working with IFES’ former Applied Research Center (ARC) did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed the collaboration amongst the ARC team and also the strong relationships we built with the program teams and technical specialists. It was rewarding to work with them to build solutions to research questions that could help improve project implementation. There was always a new challenge, a new research question to answer, and never a dull moment!
Did you feel that your work at IFES helped you grow professionally? Which IFES experience (technical or other) do you value the most?
My work at IFES definitely helped me grow professionally. I had excellent mentors in Director of Monitoring and Evaluation and Public Opinion Research Rakesh Sharma and Research Manager Rola Abdul-Latif and plenty of opportunities where I could jump in and take leadership. Having been exposed to various types of IFES programs, I was able to gain expertise across a variety of democracy and governance programming areas and also different types of research approaches. I feel so fortunate to have worked on different types of programs across all regions of IFES’ work.
As a specialist in the area of monitoring & evaluation, what are in your view the greatest challenges for implementing robust M&E systems for democracy and governance projects?
Measuring improvements in democracy and governance will always present challenges. It is not the same as measuring anti-retroviral treatment and HIV suppression, for example—it is a much more complex concept that cannot easily be placed into one box of measurement. However, I think the DG field can learn from the rigor and prioritization that other areas of development give to monitoring, evaluation, and learning—prioritization in terms of having M&E integral to program design and also dedicated funding. The DG field continues to grow in this area and it is exciting to see it developing.