How We Work
The lab is composed of an interdisciplinary group of 10 faculty and 14-18 PhD students. We meet for a working lunch every other Tuesday, and more as needed in response to deadlines on implementer proposals. The focus of lab meetings are on discussing specific RFPs we receive for review with the goals of (1) brainstorming potential evaluation strategies that are both rigorous and feasible, and (2) identifying within the RFP areas for fruitful research given the specific interests of lab members and the scope of the RFP.
Meetings follow a standardized format designed both to maximize the learning potential for graduate trainees and to efficiently generate useful feedback for our partners on proposal strategies for evaluation and data collection. We begin each meeting by discussing potential research opportunities that could arise out of the intervention and/or data collection effort. The second half of the meeting is spent generating concrete M&E feedback for the proposal. When there are no RFPs to work on, the meetings will serve either for in-depth discussion on a particular research methodology or tool (ideally bringing in speakers from the Penn community with related expertise), or to discuss ongoing lab projects.
At the pre-award stage the work flow will proceed as follows: After a faculty-led reading of the RFP and comprehensive lab meeting discussion, lab members will produce a short document for the proposal writer that lays out research and program design opportunities, as well as naming interested research collaborators at Penn that our partners may wish to build into the proposal. Upon feedback from the proposal team, a subset of lab members would be involved in more detailed proposal development. This last portion of work can involve actually writing portions of the “technical” and “monitoring, evaluation and learning” portions of the proposal. The extent of involvement in proposal development would depend on the level of interest among lab members in collaborating on the project and also on agreement with the proposal team regarding the finalized project design. The lab prefers to be involved in project proposals as early as possible, even at the capture stage.
At the post-award stage, faculty members of the lab allocate specific PIs to each project and one or several PhD students. They are responsible for helping the implementer develop a detailed M&E plan, data collection strategy and monitoring systems. These teams of specific researchers meet as needed outside of regular lab meetings to push the research forward. Other lab members participate as needed.