Top Moments from MLE's End of Project Event

Earlier this month, the Measurement, Learning & Evaluation (MLE) Project held an end-of-project event at the FHI 360 Conference Center in Washington, D.C. MLE researchers presented data on the results of the impact evaluation on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s (BMGF) Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (URHI) and the MLE Project’s study design and challenges. In addition, the event looked ahead to what’s next in urban reproductive health.


The URHI was a multi-country program in India, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal that aimed to improve the reproductive health of the urban poor by increasing the accessibility, quality and use of family planning services. The MLE Project is the evaluation arm of URHI program managed by the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Population Center. The Knowledge Management team at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) facilitates knowledge sharing; documents and disseminates best practices about successful urban family planning interventions; and ensures that data and information are available to inform reproductive health and family planning (RH/FP) programming at the local, country, regional and global levels for the MLE Project.


Here’s a look at the event’s most memorable moments.


1: Just like baseball fans during the World Series, MLE loves data
Fresh off the curse-breaking final game of the 2016 World Series, Perri Sutton, Associate Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, couldn’t resist a reference to the historic game. Sutton was one of the first speakers of the day and started off by asking who else had stayed up the night before to watch the Cubs’ victory. She then told the crowd this bit of trivia: there are 108 stitches on a baseball, and it had been 108 years between Cubs wins. This proved, as she went on to explain, that everyone – including baseball fans – loved data, and thus the importance of the MLE Project! Skillfully connected, Perri.


As the evaluation component of the URHI, MLE aimed to identify the reproductive needs of the urban poor by collecting longitudinal and cross-sectional data to show impact across cities, over time and among the urban poor. This allowed MLE to identify changes in the modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) and behavioral and attitudinal norms in intervention cities over the course of the URHI.


2: The project design enabled an environment of learning and growing
Ilene Speizer, MLE Technical Deputy Director at the Carolina Population Center (CNC), referred to the MLE Project as the middle ground between the four URHI projects and spoke about how the project was able to create a “laboratory of learning”. She described how the Senegal URHI, the first project to include work with religious leaders, paved the way for the other countries to seek out leaders in their own communities, ultimately resulting in greater programmatic success across all five countries.

3: Global development is messy
While talking about the lessons the MLE Project learned about working in-country, Peter Lance, Impact Evaluation Analyst at CPC, shared this graphic to emphasize the complexity of not only working in urban areas, but also just how messy working in global development can be:


4: Clinic makeovers in Nigeria were a key facility-based intervention
Meghan Corroon, Associate Technical Director at CPC, spoke about the Nigerian Urban Health Initiative’s (NURHI) 72-hour clinic makeovers. Citing them as one of her favorite aspects of all the URHI programs, Corroon complimented the innovative approach: A trained NURHI team was given three days to take a clinic and its supplies from decrepit to modern, fully-stocked, and ready to give information and advice about family planning.  




5: “The Key to Sustainable Development: Investing in Urban Reproductive Health”
Before event attendees made a break for lunch, Speizer launched into the first public showing of MLE’s new video about the importance of investing in urban reproductive health. The video features key field experts Melinda Gates, Ellen Starbird, Anju Malhotra, Dr. Latif Dramani, Jason Bremner, and Oying Rimon as they talk about how family planning has a positive impact on the economy, environment, women’s empowerment, and how investing in family planning, particularly in urban areas, will help the global health community meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

6: TCI is business unusual
So, what’s next in urban reproductive health? The “baton” has been handed over to Oying Rimon, Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, who will lead The Challenge Initiative (TCI). Rimon described TCI as “business unusual,” where cities are able to self-select to participate and bring their own resources to the table.


TCI will scale up the URHI's tools, approaches, and lessons learned and apply them to more cities and geographies. Cities that self-select will work with TCI’s in-country partners—known as accelerator hubs—to develop proposals for implementing a package of family planning interventions that are cost-effective and customized to their local, urban needs.


7: The MLE Project was a successful stepping stone
The overall takeaway from the event was that the URHI programs were a successful proof of concept. In all four countries, mCPR increased 10-18% among the poorest women. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TCI will be working to expand the URHI’s key interventions and scaling them up to new cities and countries where reproductive health solutions are needed for the urban poor.

Although the MLE Project was a successful proof of concept, it is just the beginning of what is possible in urban reproductive health. We are excited to see TCI continue to build a transformative and sustainable approach to providing life-saving reproductive health and family planning services to vulnerable women and families who need it the most, and we hope you are too!

This blog post was co-written by Christina Shaw, Communications Specialist for the Measurement, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) Project, and Mary Andes, Communications Specialist for the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP).