APC was joined by Mark Fiorello, a monitoring & evaluation expert with nine years of experience in Indonesia, for a short few months to improve our capacity and rethink and better deliver our programmes. During this time, Mark has helped to develop the APC Impact Framework and various ways of understanding our effectiveness, as well as helping to manage the Thousand Days Fund and ASEAN Peace Initiatives projects. He has also recently conducted a quick review of several different instances of APC’s support to collaboration to identify some key lessons about what has worked well and not quite as well.
We sat down with him to learn a bit more and hear about his reflections on his time with us.
What led you to work at APC?
I relocated to Singapore at the end of 2019 after 9 years in Indonesia, where I had previously set up a small consulting company (SOLIDARITAS) working with development programmes and NGOs to improve the effectiveness of their programming. During that time, we did a bit of (mostly pro bono) work with the 1000 Days Fund supported by Simon Flint, so I knew of APC through Simon. A few months after settling into Singapore, I saw there was an opening for a Deputy Director position and was suitably intrigued!
What was it about APC that has interested you?
In recent years I’ve been working mostly with programmes supported by international development agencies and have often found the bureaucracy and underlying political agendas to be very frustrating. I’m still learning my way around the philanthropic space, but it’s great to be engaged with a community of progressive philanthropists with a diverse set of interests and the ability to make quick, strategic decisions.
What are some of the things you have been involved with at APC?
With my background in M&E and programme management and my experience working in Indonesia, I’ve been thrown right into the deep end coordinating the APC Secretariat’s support to Thousand Days Fund (the BISA programme) and ASEAN Peace Initiatives (the grant to Peace Generation). I’ve also been working together with the Centre for Effectiveness and Implementation on the development of an APC resource on “evaluating”, and also coordinating the recent expert discussion we had on leveraging evidence in philanthropy.
I’ve developed APC’s Impact Framework and other approaches to measuring results as well as APC’s larger strategy around facilitating collaboration between members. As part of that, I recently did a “rapid review” of APC’s efforts to getting seven different collaborative initiatives up and running, which has helped to distil a few important lessons that will hopefully help inform APC’s strategy in this area going forward.
The other thing that I have been working on with Laurence, Stacey and Natalie is some back-end work to improve how APC plans for and tracks the use of staff time across all of the many different things we do. That’s not sexy, but it is really important to make sure that APC is using its most valuable resource as effectively as possible.
What are you passionate about?
I just became a new dad in June, so my own perspective and priorities have recently changed in a big way – our son is awesome and it has been absolutely amazing to watch him grow and develop every day.
Work-wise, my main passions are around designing and managing non-profit initiatives to maximise their effectiveness and value for the people they are meant to benefit. I’ve spent enough time on the ground in various places to have seen the potential of good programmes to make peoples’ lives better and more meaningful, but also just how often that potential goes unrealised when programmes aren’t well designed or well implemented.
What are your reflections on your time working with APC?
I’ve been really impressed with the range of work the APC Secretariat takes on and delivers with such apparent ease. It’s a small team juggling many, many different tasks, and the fact that they invariably come off so well is a testament to the quality and commitment of the people working at APC.
The other thing I’ve been reflecting on is that that so many APC members are interested in measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of their work, but are struggling with where and how to start… in part because it can be so intimidating. This is still a relatively nascent area of the practice of philanthropy (especially here in Southeast Asia), but in this case the perfect is almost definitely the enemy of the good — I’m a huge believer in simply starting to do things that are likely to be useful, and then reflecting and refining as you go. A key task for those of us working professionally in this space is to make M&E relevant and accessible to strategic decision-makers, and shifting the perception of M&E away from a cost that must be incurred and toward an investment that has the potential for significant returns.