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Mary Lagaay

Mary Lagaay has over seven years of national and international experience in research, monitoring and evaluation.

Since joining Itad in 2017, Mary has worked on a formative evaluation of UNICEF’s approach to health systems strengthening (HSS), focused on examining UNICEF’s efforts on HSS across different levels of the organisation in order to facilitate learning from experience. In addition, she has worked on two theory-based evaluations of paediatric and adolescent HIV testing and counselling programmes, funded by the ELMA foundation in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Swaziland and Zambia. Mary has also completed an evaluation of the Norwegian Aid Administration’s practice of Results-Based Management.

Prior to joining Itad, Mary was a researcher at Plan International, where she was responsible for the design, implementation and management of global research projects related to children’s rights on topics including Ebola, birth registration, youth employment, child marriage, disability, gender and inclusion. She supported Plan International to produce and utilise practical evidence to inform programme design and strategic decision making. Her work has a particular focus on qualitative and participatory techniques, gender-sensitive research, child-friendly research methods and ethically sound research practice.

Mary holds an MSc in Social Policy Research from the London School of Economics where she received in-depth training in quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Her final dissertation focused on maternal drug and alcohol misuse and UK child protection proceedings.

Nationality: British
Languages: English (native speaker), Spanish (Basic)
Country Experience:

Bolivia, Razil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kasakhstan, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, Norway, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia


MSc Social Policy (Distinction)
London School of Economics
BA History (2.1)
University of Exeter


2017 - Ongoing
Itad Ltd

2013 - 2017
Research Manager
Plan International

2012 - 2013
Policy and Parliamentary Officer
National Children’s Bureau

2009 - 2011
Project Administrator
Oasis Project

Project Experience:

2017 - present
UNICEF Programming in Health Systems Strengthening – A Formative Evaluation
(UNICEF) - Evaluator
Given the strategic importance of UNICEF’s engagement in HSS, it has contracted Itad to undertake a formative evaluation of the organisation’s approach to HSS, focused on examining UNICEF’s efforts on HSS across different levels of the organization in order to facilitate learning from experience.

Now in its second year, the evaluation is theory-based, centred on the use of an overarching theory of change (ToC) for UNICEF’s work in HSS, which elaborates the theoretical causal pathways through which UNICEF intends to effect change. Two separate but inter-related domains of UNICEF’s engagement in HSS are examined – namely, how UNICEF as an organization is supporting the changes sought in its approach, and how programme implementation is supporting HSS at country level.

Mary’s role in the evaluation involves coordinating the design, fieldwork planning, analysis and write up of 6 in-depth country case studies. This includes liaison with each UNICEF country office and management of national consultants in each country. She is also responsible for undertaking data collection in Sierra Leone and will contribute to the final evaluation report, drawing out key learning for UNICEF at both global and country levels.

2017 - present
Evaluation of ELMA-funded “Unfinished Business” Paediatric and Adolescent HIV Program
(The ELMA Foundation) - Evaluator
After a multi-year series of investments, the ELMA Foundation has commissioned Itad to evaluate its contribution to paediatric and adolescent HIV treatment and care in South Africa and Uganda.

The evaluation is built around testing a theory of change which lays out the objectives and activities of the ELMA Unfinished Business program and illustrates how it is designed to contribute to improved outcomes for paediatric and adolescent HIV testing and treatment. The theory of change is being interrogated through:

• Analysis of HIV testing, treatment, and retention data using the HIV cascade of care as an organizing framework
• Qualitative data collection to form country case studies assessing how the Unfinished Business programme has (or has not) contributed to outcomes as articulated by the theory of change

Mary’s responsibilities on the project have included obtaining IRB ethics approval, facilitating a theory of change workshop with programme stakeholders, coordinating a multi-country team of evaluators, liaising with multiple implementing partners to gather programme data and schedule fieldwork, design of data collection and analysis tools and writing sections of the evaluation reports.

2017 - present
Evaluation of an Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation Programme to Accelerate POC/PITC Testing
(The ELMA Foundation) - Evaluator
Among the ELMA Foundation’s suite of investments is a 36-month grant to the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) to expand access to HIV testing and treatment in Kenya, Swaziland, and Zambia for children aged 18 months to 19 years old.

The programme evaluation being conducted by Itad aims to assess outcomes to accelerate Point of Care (POC) testing and Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling (PITC) in the three programme countries and inform future investments and the direction of ELMA’s HIV portfolio.

Mary’s activities have included the design of data collection and analysis tools, undertaking qualitative fieldwork in Kenya, analysis of qualitative data using the ‘Dedoose’ software package and writing sections of the evaluation report.

2017 - 2018
Evaluation of The Norwegian Aid Administration’s Practice of Results-Based Management
(NORAD) - Evaluator
This evaluation used a theory based and utilisation focussed design to investigate how RBM is put into practice in the Norwegian aid administration, and its link with improved partner effectiveness and ultimately improved development outcomes.

Using a case study based approach, Mary’s role involved reviewing existing results frameworks, strategies, policies, plans and guidance from the Norwegian aid administration as well as conducting interviews with key stakeholders involved in RBM to understand the current state of play and identify any changes since an evaluation of results measurement in 2014. Findings from the case studies were validated with a wider range of CSOs and aid administration stakeholders through a series of workshops. Using a theory of change as the overarching framework, data was compared and synthesised to draw out key learning and insights for the Norwegian aid administration.


  • Ebola: Beyond the health emergency (2015)
    Plan International
    Rothe, D., Gallinetti, J., Lagaay, M., Campbell, L.

  • Birth registration and children’s rights: A complex story (2014)
    Plan International
    Apland, A., Blitz, B., Hamilton, C., Lagaay, M., Lakshman, R., Yarrow, L.

  • Time to listen: Independent advocacy within the child protection process (2013)
    National Children’s Bureau
    Lagaay, M. & Courtney, L.