Mary Abdo, Managing Director at the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI)



Mary Abdo, Managing Director, CEI



Mary Abdo, Managing Director at the Centre for Evidence and Implementation, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss evidence-based philanthropy


The Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) is a global not-for-profit advisory organisation set up in Australia in 2016 with offices in Singapore, the UK and Australia. They are a social enterprise subsidiary of Save the Children.


CEI is a mission-driven organisation dedicated to seeing the best evidence implemented in policy and practice to improve the lives of vulnerable people.


They work with a range of clients, including governments, foundations and social sector agencies, by supporting them to use evidence well and to implement it well.


In order to help organisations accelerate the use of evidence on what works to improve the lives of vulnerable people, the folks at CEI do three things: (1) they support organisations to make sense of the evidence; (2) they work with them to trial, test and evaluate approaches; and (3) they work in ‘Implementation Science’ — if we think of evidence-based interventions as the ‘what’, then Implementation Science is the ‘how’.


During the conversation, we look at what it actually means to be evidence-informed in one’s philanthropy, both from a perspective of outlook and from a perspective of approach.


What is evidence and why it’s important? There is a need to move away from what simply ‘sounds good’ to what is actually based on good science and research.


Moreover, there is a need to embrace a learning mindset — shift the emphasis from trying to get it right all the time to a focus on learning and sharing what you’ve learned. Innovation is also key and, counterintuitive as it may sound, being innovative also means simply doing what works, now.


This episode is for anyone who is keen to understand research and evidence, how it is implemented, why it is important and how its insight can be viewed as a public good on a global level.


Research, methodologies and frameworks have changed over the last 20 years and the potential for big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the field in the coming years is tremendous.




About Mary Abdo


Mary Abdo is the Managing Director of CEI. Mary has lived in Asia since 2012, supporting organisations to develop strategies and capture innovations that maximise impact across more than 25 countries. Her clients have included governments, foundations, impact investors, non-profits, multilateral donors and educational institutions.


Previously, Mary was with global strategy house L.E.K. Consulting, where she was a Senior Manager and founding member of the firm’s global education practice. She was previously Vice President at EY-Parthenon. In both institutions she led the education teams' work with public and social impact clients, while also developing thought leadership initiatives, authoring major reports for USAID, DFID, World Bank Group, Qatar Foundation and Jacobs Foundation, among others.


Before joining Parthenon in Mumbai in 2012, Mary was a manager at the Young Foundation, a social innovation think-and-do-tank in London. She holds a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she was a Pforzheimer Fellow in Non-Profit Management, and a Master from the College of Europe, which she attended as a Fulbright Fellow. She has a Bachelor degree summa cum laude from the University of Southern California, which she attended as a Trustee Scholar.


In her role with CEI, Mary supports clients to maximise the impact of the programs they fund. She leads strategic projects within CEI that enable the organisation’s growth and impact.