The Mixed-Methods Evaluation, Training and Analysis (META) Lab is the newest research initiative at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The aim of the META Lab is to capitalize on the rising demand for evidence-based policy evaluation. The unprecedented availability of data from multiple sources, and the increased economic constraints leading to more stringent evaluation processes, has inspired new demands for professional development at the Monterey Institute.
Academically, the META Lab will create a learning environment where students and faculty share in cutting-edge approaches to research and evaluation, by providing a repository for expertise to support courses and collaborating with other research centers on campus. The META Lab will offer students opportunities to gain professional work experience through participating in lab projects. The META Lab will also serve an important community service function, by collaborating with local and regional groups to provide high-level expertise in the form of student participation and expert advice and consultation. The lab’s inaugural project exemplifies the opportunities available to students.
In January of 2013, META Lab Research Fellows Shawn Harris and Omar Salem began a project to give back to the local community by employing structured inquiry and network analysis to evaluate the impact of the violence prevention efforts of the Cross Functional Team of the Salinas Community Alliance for Safety and Peace. By using novel analytic approaches, the two MIIS students (now alums) were better equipped to examine the changing social dynamics that drive community violence that are not possible to capture with traditional statistics or qualitative assessment at the scale required. Today, their efforts have culminated to become the flag-ship project of the META Lab in what will be a two-year participatory coalition evaluation of the META Lab’s nine partners in Salinas (three city agencies, three county agencies and three NGOs).
Under the direction of Professor Fernando DePaolis and Professor Philip Murphy, the META Lab will position the Monterey Institute as a center of excellence in academic and professional practice of policy analysis. The META Lab, located in the 400 Pacific Street building, Rooms D210 & D211, looks forward to joining the greater evaluation community and is enthusiastic about new opportunities for collaboration and project ideas.