By, Adriana Abreu-Combs, Chief of Party, MEL Activity, El Salvador

Development is more meaningful and has the potential to be more sustainable when it is localized.  

In Central America, there is a drive to empower and partner with local organizations in initiatives aimed at advancing broad-based opportunities throughout the subcontinent. USAID’s Centroamérica Local Initiative is one of the channels promoting such efforts.   

It is under this broader framework that USAID’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Activity, implemented by EnCompass and servicing USAID/El Salvador and Central America & Mexico Regional Mission, convened a virtual bidder’s conference on June 8, 2023, seeking partnerships. The conference drew around 55 representatives from 18 country and regional organizations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica who joined to learn more about subcontracting opportunities under the MEL Activity’s Iniciativa de Conocimiento para Nuevas Organizaciones (ICONO). Facilitators invited potential local and regional partners to put forward proposals for partnering in the design and/or delivery of MEL services in the region, including research, evaluations, assessments, analyses, and similar MEL efforts. 

The conference laid the groundwork for a two-way exchange of knowledge and experience—an important input to support the design and implementation of development activities that have a positive and sustainable impact in the region.  

It also represented an intentional effort by the MEL Activity team to demystify procurement processes and requirements, leveling the playing field for organizations at different maturity levels. Local organizations are sometimes left out of international development procurements because they may not be acquainted with the rules and requirements or do not have the right guidance to compete with more experienced peers. In addition to the conference, the MEL Activity provided visual aids and opened up an inquiry channel to further provide support.  

The effort was appreciated, as illustrated in the words of participants: “We consider that these types of activities are enriching for local organizations.” “All the information was very useful; we hope to be able to participate.” 

While a procurement process still needs to unfold to determine the winners of this initial outreach by the MEL Activity, judging by the positive energy at the conference, the potential has been unleashed.