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How a Global Video Challenge Inspires Collaboration and Learning

| 5 Minute Read
Health Supply Chains | Agriculture and Food Security | Peace, Stability, and Transition | Education | Economic Growth and Trade
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning
Chemonics’ Global MEL Video Challenge, an innovative initiative that fosters learning through annual video submissions, provides a platform for global teams to learn from each other.

By relying on paper records, Nepal’s health supply chain faced a challenge in ensuring essential medicines were reaching all of its population, including those in remote or hard-to-reach areas. To remedy this, our USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project worked alongside the Government of Nepal to co-develop an online database to track and record medicines. In the ever-changing landscape of international development, staying ahead requires adapting to change and actively embracing innovation and collaboration. This is just one of the many examples of collaborative, innovative, and impact-driven activities from the projects we implement.

In line with Chemonics’ values of continual learning and working inclusively and collaboratively, we have pioneered a distinctive approach to help foster this: an annual monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) Video Challenge. Every year we invite Chemonics’ project teams across the globe to capture their achievements, hurdles, and best practices in the field of MEL using the power of short-form video storytelling. The Video Challenge has emerged as a low-cost and effective way to promote peer-to-peer learning among project staff around specific MEL topics.

Submissions originate from all technical sectors and regions. Teams are given the opportunity to use their creativity and imagination to design, film, and submit videos based on the suggested topic areas. In this blog, we highlight the key themes that have emerged over the past three years of the challenge, and how other development stakeholders can integrate this approach into their own organizations’ efforts to foster a culture of learning and collaboration.

Tracking the Evolution of the Video Challenge

Over the past three years, submissions to the Global MEL Video Challenge have highlighted timely and topical themes, each reflecting the evolving landscape of the international development sector and the new challenges we face every year.

Year 1 (2020): Adapting to the Unprecedented

As the global COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, disrupting projects worldwide, the inaugural edition of the challenge centered on highlighting project teams’ expertise in utilizing remote solutions across MEL and responding to the constraints that emerged in response to the pandemic.

The theme for the first video challenge was identified through a survey we conducted of our global MEL staff, which reflected a desire to learn about a variety of data collection methods amidst pandemic restrictions. The videos showcased effective tactics employed by teams to sustain data collection, engage with communities, and uphold project efficacy amid lockdowns and mobility constraints. For example, the video submission from our Syria Injaz Activity, which worked to improve access to and quality of education in Northeast Syria, shows how the Activity installed an intranet in a camp for internally displaced people to support distance learning, with students accessing their virtual classrooms via the intranet and teachers communicating with students via mobile phones. In the latest project assessment, results showed a 96-percent decrease in non-readers.

Year 2 (2022): Empowering Decision-making with Data

In the challenge’s second year, the spotlight shifted to data-driven learning and adaptive measures. Project teams shared their experience using data to inform project decision-making and learning, pivot interventions, and amplify overall impact. Video submissions showcased the journey from raw data to actionable insights, underscoring the crucial role of MEL in shaping evidence-based programming.

The video from USAID/Colombia’s Venezuela Response and Integration’s Integra activity (below), which provides support to refugees fleeing Venezuela, described how they focused their efforts to provide more and better services to promote integration into Colombian society. This helped reduce xenophobia and increase social cohesion among the most vulnerable and invisible people who participate in migration dynamics, and who are identified through the investigation and monitoring of data.

Year 3 (2023): Collaborating for Locally Led Development

Building upon previous years’ focus on innovation and data-guided decision-making, this year’s video challenge revolved around effective collaboration with local stakeholders to conduct better MEL for projects. MEL teams from Chemonics’ global programs illustrated their close collaborations with local communities, local partners, and governments to champion locally led development. These videos powerfully captured the effectiveness of partnerships in achieving sustainable outcomes harmonized with local needs. For instance, the USAID/Ukraine Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities Activity’s video demonstrates how the team employs the DevResults system to gather and analyze extensive information, with sub-grantees directly inputting data into the database. This partnership with the grantees improved tracking of grain type, location, quantity, and ownership by enabling farmers to identify shifts in grain loading rates and timely engagement with farmers.

The Global MEL Challenge video submissions powerfully captured the effectiveness of partnerships in achieving sustainable outcomes harmonized with local needs.

How the Challenge Works

Every June, we send out a call out for submissions to all Chemonics’ global staff through various internal channels to raise awareness of the video challenge. After all submissions are received, we review and shortlist submissions based on a predefined rubric to evaluate video quality, thematic relevance, video length, and originality. After that, a final panel that includes Chemonics’ CEO and other executive team members convenes to rate and choose the best three video submissions and, sometimes, a few honorable mentions. The winning videos receive public recognition across Chemonics’ internal and external communications channels and a virtual awards ceremony hosted by the CEO, which supports the selected project teams in promoting and celebrating their strategies and achievements within their own projects and across the company and other projects.

Why the Challenge Works

While the Global MEL Video Challenge has been a worthwhile initiative to illuminate the innovative MEL approaches from Chemonics’ projects around the world, other international development organizations may consider adopting this dynamic initiative because it offers several advantages, such as:

  • Knowledge sharing: The challenge fosters an annual platform for knowledge exchange that transcends geographical boundaries, enabling viewers to gather insights and solutions from diverse contexts. This is demonstrated by the fact that this year, we received videos from a variety of countries, showcasing how different activities can collaborate with local actors in different technical areas, such as education, agriculture, health, and economic growth.
  • Encouraging innovation: Encouraging teams to capture their experiences in short video format stimulates creative thinking and the sharing of innovative practices that can be replicated across projects and technical sectors. For instance, this year, the Syria Education Programme (Manahel) demonstrated in their video how the project team effectively utilized the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as an assessment tool, for capturing baseline data, identifying areas of concern, tracking long-term outcomes, and making data-driven decisions.
  • Fostering collaboration: The challenge helps catalyze collaboration within projects, regional teams, and even different teams within the organization.
  • Elevating project successes and innovations: The videos offer a platform to spotlight the remarkable work of individual teams, elevating their efforts within the whole organization and beyond, and having the opportunity to compete for the coveted “Top 3 Video” designation.

Chemonics’ Global MEL Video Challenge is not just a celebration of achievements but also an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. While the thematic focus changes every year, the challenge’s core purpose remains the same – to provide a platform for global teams to share, inspire, and learn from each other. As the international development landscape continues to evolve, initiatives like these allow development practitioners to keep on innovating and amplifying the local impact that individual project teams create every day.

Banner image caption: Illustration of a global surrounded by computers, data, and graphics against a dark blue background. This image was developed by Rufous and licensed via Adobe Stock.

Posts on the blog represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Chemonics.