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Exploring new technical innovations in MEL for systemic change

Join us for a cross-sector discussion on how we can best undertake strategic learning and evaluation using a systems perspective, and whether and how we can harness machine learning in support of this.


Date: Wednesday 29 March 2023
3:00pm – 4.30pm BST (UTC+1)
Register to attend 

To respond to the complexity, scale and urgency of today’s global challenges, organisations are increasingly embracing a systems perspective in their work. Adopting such an approach creates a different set of challenges for generating and responding to evidence and learning – compared to more traditional approaches.

At the same time, there has been a rapid growth in the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and rising interest in applying this to monitoring, evaluation and learning.

This event seeks to stimulate discussion on how best to undertake strategic learning and evaluation within a systems-change approach, and whether and how we can harness machine learning in support of this.

Panellists include representatives of two philanthropic organisations at different stages in their journey to learn and evaluate with a systems-change lens, and evaluators who are using machine learning in innovative ways:

  • Fondation Botnar is at an early stage of reimagining their approach to Strategic Learning and Evaluation (SLE), following a comprehensive organisational evaluation. They are developing an approach to SLE that is built up of various cycles of feedback and learning. At the same time, they plan to build up a ‘topography of evidence’ that allows for conversations on various levels inside the organisation and with partners, grantees and young people about the difference they make in young people’s lives. (Read their blog ‘Developing a learning system rooted in relational wellbeing‘)
  • Itad and CASM Technology have partnered on several evaluations, including with philanthropies. Together, they have used machine learning algorithms to analyse large volumes of online news and social media data to examine the discourse around the evaluation topic, and the sentiment being expressed. (Read their blog ‘Harnessing the potential of natural language processing for MEL’.)
  • Laterite has developed a platform where researchers and evaluators can access applications designed to facilitate and speed-up technical and repetitive tasks, like coding a survey, cleaning data or coding qualitative data. Laterite is making use of fine-tuned large language models to power this application. (Read their blog ‘Developing Laterite AI – technology to automate tedious research tasks‘.)
  • Luminate is taking a new approach to their MEL practice by distilling systems theory to produce a practical learning framework. The purpose of the framework is to test uncertainties in their strategy, and challenges Luminate to collect confirming and disconfirming evidence to contribute to their decision making. In practice, this means that team members articulate their hypotheses and assumptions, and pay close attention to system boundaries and multiple perspectives. (Read their blog ‘Embedding systems thinking in daily learning’.)

During the event, we will explore a number of questions with both panellists and audience members – including through using live audience polls. Some of the questions we aim to explore include:

  • Working on complex systems-change means it can be a challenge to define measurable objectives and targets. What does this mean for the way we evidence and learn from our work?
  • How can we take a more inclusive view of what constitutes evidence and learning? What techniques do we need to think about to help us make sense of this?
  • What are the ways we can harness machine learning in support of strategic learning and evaluation? What value can this offer over more traditional approaches?
  • How have we worked to combine digital data with more traditional data sources? What has worked well? Where is there room to further explore and learn?
  • What is the future in this space? Next year? In five years? In ten years? What should we watch out for?



This event is free. All welcome.

This online event is part of a series that aims to support knowledge sharing and learning on how we can address this decade’s greatest evaluation challenges.

If you would like further information about this event, please contact Carol Smithyes (