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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 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, supported a cross-border health-seeking behavior study. LINC’s research of cross-border health policy and regulation coupled with intel-gathering from key informants via qualitative field visits were used to assist the Zambian Ministry of Health in identifying geographic areas where cross-border population inflows are affecting health service delivery and commodity consumption. Combined with the design and spatial analysis of district and facility- level service delivery catchment areas, this research highlighted the extent to which this phenomenon is causing border districts to experience an additional health system burden.

In Guatemala, LINC assisted the USAID/ Guatemala Democracy and Governance Office (DGO) in developing 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 was developed in parallel with a Political Economy Analysis (PEA) 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 supported the uptake of adaptive management for more effective market systems programming. Combining network analysis with qualitative systems inquiry, LINC’s research assessed and informed a set of 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.

In South Africa, LINC undertook an evaluation of the USAID-funded Albertina Sisulu Executive Leadership Programme in Health (ASELPH). Since 2013, promising leaders and managers in South Africa’s health system have been nominated to participate in ASELPH at one of two universities – the University of Pretoria or the University of Fort Hare – where they receive executive-level training and support to build their capacity to drive positive health system transformations. The evaluation used a combination of qualitative and quantitative systems approaches – systems mapping and social network analysis – to identify the areas where and assess the extent to which the program has equipped ASELPH Fellows with new skills and resources to enact such transformations. LINC conducted Social Network Analyses of each of the five graduated cohorts that targeted how well the program has facilitated continued networking and information sharing among Fellows post-graduation.