Home Blog & Media How L&D and MEAL Can Join Forces to Drive NGO Impact

How L&D and MEAL Can Join Forces to Drive NGO Impact

May 25, 2023

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Winnie Mapenzi

Account Manager, Kenya

Did you know organisations miss out on valuable data and information when L&D and MEAL teams work in silos? It’s a common problem that Gretchen Regehr, Senior Director of Talent Management at Conservation International, recognised and sought to address. Her insight led to a L&D roundtable discussion held by the Humentum Learning Services (HLS) Team earlier this year, which focused on the intersection of MEAL and L&D. The goal was to identify opportunities for collaboration between these two teams and how it can benefit organisational development, which this blog explores.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Globally, L&D teams continuously collect data from initiatives rolled out in response to identified capacity gaps. However, to a large extent, these usually miss out on information from other teams. Including data from MEAL, HR, and program teams, for example, serves to triangulate findings. This helps to move the L&D assessments from the first two levels of Kirk Patrick’s evaluation model to the next two levels of behaviour change and impact. In an article for the Learning Guild website, Steve Foreman reflects on the type of data traditionally collected by L&D teams. In short, whilst it shows much activity, it doesn’t explain L&D’s value to the organisation, which limits decision-making within organisations.

As such, our team coordinated a roundtable to explore the intersection between MEAL and L&D. We wanted to dive into what organisations can do to better showcase the importance of L&D and understand its impact.

Current Scenario

Through activities such as brainstorming sessions, group work, polls, and reflection sessions, it became evident that although the teams understood the need to conduct MEAL activities for the L&D initiatives, several factors affected the consistency and robustness of these attempts:

  1. HR constraints made it difficult for teams to go beyond basic data collection as they focused on developing and rolling out capacity-building initiatives.
  2. The departments’ needs superseded the need to work closely with other teams and tap into the available HR that could complement the L&D work and triangulate data.
  3. Knowledge gaps on what other levels of data collection were possible and why it was necessary.

This topic was sensitive as it hit many organisations’ most underfunded and least prioritised departments. To that end, the roundtable presented a safe space and allowed teams to gain fresh perspectives and clarity on what it would take to increase momentum and make progress in those areas.


During the session, L&D professionals explored the following:

  • The definition of L&D and MEAL. Participants generally agreed that L&D is a systematic process to enhance an employee’s skills, knowledge, and competency, resulting in better performance in a work environment. The MEAL acronym was also unpacked.
  • The structure and composition of L&D teams and how they relate to teams such as HR, MEAL, management, and programme, development and quality (PDQ).
  • How ways of working within and across teams can aid or inhibit robust assessments and information sharing.
  • How to align L&D strategy and activities to organisational goals, identify performance gaps, and develop a MEAL plan.
  • An example of a learning evaluation model – Kirk Patrick’s Model.


By the end of the session, several points stood out for the participants:

  • Clearly defining what L&D is and what it is not cannot be over-emphasised. This clarifies what activities should be the focus of assessments and which teams would add value to the assessment processes. This also highlighted how L&D teams and other stakeholders must collaborate to clearly define indicators and outcomes that facilitate reliable assessments and results.
  • Additionally, minimising silo-working provided an opportunity for smaller L&D teams to tap into the expertise of other teams.
  • Tapping into other team expertise would not only contribute to organisational learning and development, but also minimise duplication of processes.
  • To maximise the effectiveness of capacity-strengthening initiatives, aligning them with organisational objectives is important. These can be drawn from strategic plans, goals, skills, audits, reviews, etc. This enables teams to identify capacity gaps and measure them with the support of other teams. Furthermore, this approach offers a strategic view of the results, facilitating decision-making. By working together, global indicators can be established.

With lots of useful information emerging from the discussions, I’m sure we will explore more hot subjects in a future L&D roundtable session. Until then, please stay tuned for part three of my L&D blog series!

Once again, thank you to all the members who were present during the roundtable for your invaluable contribution to the topic and Gretchen for inspiring the direction of the conversation.

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