Measurement, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL)

When IYF works to help young people develop the leadership, technical, and life skills to earn a livelihood, we measure those skills and assess those changes. We are committed to MERL because measurement and data ensure that we really support every young person to realize their full potential—instead of it being just a lofty goal. Through MERL, we understand how we're making progress and hold ourselves accountable.

Our approach to MERL reflects IYF’s values—Inclusion, Integrity, Inspiration, Innovation, and Impact—and the American Evaluation Association’s Guiding Principles for the professional ethical conduct of evaluators. We use participatory measurement methods, engaging young people and partners throughout the process. In this way, we ensure our projects address youth-defined problems within the local context. Supporting our deeply held commitment to ensure broad social inclusion, we use equitable evaluation approaches, embracing equity as a leading principle. IYF as an organization is committed to using data to improve our programs and reveal and solve access inequities. Our evaluation questions and approaches focus on practical utilization. We're always asking ourselves, “What is the most salient and useful information for our partners?”

We weave collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) principles and processes into our work from project outset. At IYF, program measurement and evaluation reflect an institutional commitment to collect locally- and globally-relevant, high-quality data. We collaborate with partners to use data to evaluate and adapt programs, and to leave existing MERL systems stronger than when we arrived.

IYF is a learning organization, with structures and processes to make learning a part of our daily routine.

  • Project-level learning: This starts by making iterative learning routine at the project level—examining available data, reflecting on information, and using adaptive management to make project changes accordingly.
  • Organizational-level learning: This extends to the organizational level, gathering iterative learning across projects, examining learnings in relation to our strategic objectives and global trends, storing them in our knowledge portal for easy access, and adjusting our evolving technical thinking according to new findings. 

Through our diverse projects, IYF pursues an ambitious learning agenda, addressing the high priority positive youth development (PYD) questions of our time. We generate, focus, and compile our own growing evidence on a variety of topics—such as the most effective approaches for building capacity and strengthening systems, and how to most effectively reach society’s most vulnerable—and we support partners to do the same. IYF also invests in external rigorous impact evaluations to understand the best ways to improve youth agency, increase economic opportunities and build youth-inclusive systems.