MEL Planning

Refugee Action

The Client

Refugee Action is a UK-based social organisation which aims to help people who’ve survived some of the world’s worst regimes. They provide their beneficiaries with basic support necessary to live again with dignity. Refugee Action’s Explore Adapt Renew (EAR) partnership is a network of national and local organisations which work together within the refugee and migration sector to shift power within organisations, connect lived experience to decision making, equip local ecosystems to create system change and support organisations to better deliver services at early stages. Some of EAR’s key interventions include capacity building activities, events, digital service design support and sharing resources such as case studies and toolkits. EAR’s ultimate impact goal is to help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants gain access to justice, develop a voice in the asylum system and successfully rebuild their lives. 


The Challenge

InFocus was commissioned to co-design a participatory Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) plan involving EAR partners as well as beneficiaries with lived experience. Refugee Action required support with the development of a framework and tools, as well as with process design to help partners collect evidence on the impact generated by EAR. They also aimed to build learning loops to improve implementation and service delivery. One of the key challenges of this project was the variance in MEL capacity, processes and understanding amongst EAR partners. These differing MEL maturity levels across the stakeholders required special attention and consideration in designing an MEL plan. 

Project Solution

InFocus facilitated a design process with co-creation sessions where EAR partners and Experts by Experience (people with lived experience) were able to provide their inputs to design the Theory of Change, M&E framework and Learning Plan. These co-creating sessions were combined with short training sessions on subjects such as the nature of a ToC, learning process design and key elements, and indicator design. Once these key elements were developed, inFocus created a flexible, visual and interactive M&E toolkit which was tested via interviews and focus groups with EAR partners.  

Area of Work and Approach

A group of reference organisations which work towards strengthening the asylum system in the UK (members of the EAR partnership) took part in the participatory design process. These implementation partner organisations included Foundation in Newcastle Upon Tyne; Bristol Refugee Rights; Brushstrokes in Sandwell, West Midlands; Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum; Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) in Leeds; Refugee Women Connect in Merseyside; Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers in South London; CAST and SIDE Labs. An additional group of Experts by Experience recruited through Refugee Action were also involved in all workshops and processes to provide feedback on the tools designed. 

InFocus utilised a participatory approach to MEL tool design by involving key stakeholders of the EAR partnership. These voices were involved during the entirety of the project. In addition, all training content and workshops were designed through a diversity and inclusion lens to ensure the content and materials were accessible for all involved audiences. InFocus included a data collection strategy with a mixed methods approach, combining the use of qualitative and quantitative data collection tools to ensure deep insights. All MEL tools were designed with flexibility in mind, which meant that EAR partners were able to pick and prioritise the elements that best suit their organisation, services and capacities. The MEL tools were also developed to cultivate a learning culture within EAR partner organisations, throughout the EAR network and within the wider asylum support ecosystem. 

The Impact

One main outcome of the EAR MEL design project was the establishment of a Theory of Change as well as a collaboratively developed evaluation framework that will be used by all partners to measure the impact for the next three years of the partnership. Other key outcomes of this process included strengthening Refugee Action staff capacities to monitor, evaluate and learn; enhancing EAR partners’ ownership of the impact measurement process; embedding an ethos of learning in the wider ecosystem; and providing EAR partners with a concise and tailored toolkit to measure their service’s impact. 

The Refugee Action team provided the following feedback about inFocus: “InFocus have helped us create a Monitoring and Evaluation toolkit to measure the impact of a partnership programme with multiple workstreams aimed at supporting refugees and asylum seekers to thrive through joined-up, preventative, empowering and adaptive projects and organisations committed to shifting power. The inFocus team took us through the process, listening and adapting the work from feedback from across the partnership. The team are approachable, experienced, organised and have delivered a toolkit which caters for different needs across the programme.” 

Pascale GayfordGood Practice and Partnerships Deputy Manager

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