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SPACES MERL

About the Project

The Strategic Program for Analyzing Complexity and Evaluating Systems (SPACES MERL) project is an activity funded by USAID’s Global Development Lab and the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) as part of the Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Innovations Program (MERLIN). This three-year activity leverages a suite of systems analytical tools and methodologies, including Social Network Analysis, systems mapping, modelling and qualitative approaches. The activity is being implemented from 2015 to 2018 by a consortium of organizations with expertise in systems and complexity, including the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University (Prime), Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), LINC and Resilient Africa Network (RAN).

In 2016, the SPACES team authored the “Systems & Complexity White Paper”, a how-to manual for USAID missions, operating units and partners on the application of systemic design, monitoring & evaluation practices into international development programming.

In Uganda, LINC conducted an analysis of the health system nationwide, utilizing systems mapping techniques to identify system-wide drivers, highlight leverage points, and provide strategic recommendations on health systems programming to USAID Uganda. The activity resulted in a map of the Ugandan health system that highlights key actors and institutions, and the relational dynamics and the linkages between them. The report produced identified and analyzed over twenty systemic leverage points within the system where concerted action might prove useful.

In Zambia, LINC, in partnership with USAID/Zambia, is currently supporting a cross-border health-seeking behavior study. LINC’s research of current cross-border health policy and regulation coupled with intel gathering from key informants via qualitative field visits, are expected to assist the Zambian MOH in identifying geographic areas where-cross border population inflows are affecting health service delivery and commodity consumption. This, combined with the design and spatial analysis of district and facility- level service delivery catchment areas are anticipated to highlight the extent to which this phenomenon is causing border districts to experience an additional health system burden.

In Guatemala, LINC is assisting the USAID/ Guatemala Democracy and Governance Office (DGO) to develop a political economy system map to visualize the complex systemic dynamics that influence and effect Guatemalan governance system’s ability to deliver public goods to its citizens. The map is being developed in parallel with a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) and is expected to help guide the DGO team in their decision-making and thinking in the lead-up to the next CDCS.  In March 2018, the team held a 2-day participatory mapping workshop with the DGO team to visualize the underlying factors that influence the current state of governance in Guatemala as well as a training session for USAID Guatemala mission staff on how to use Kumu, a visualization platform for mapping systems.

In Bangladesh, LINC is supporting the uptake of adaptive management for more effective market systems programming. Combining network analysis with qualitative systems inquiry, LINC’s research assesses and informs a set rapid iteration market systems pilot activities for ultimate scale-up or roll-back.

For USAID’s Global Health Bureau, LINC collaborated with SPACES partners to conduct the Global Health Supply Chain (GHSC) evaluation, utilizing network analysis to assess the longitudinal impact of HIV/AIDS and malaria commodity programming worldwide.

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