M & E Primer for Development Foot Soldiers

Development sector tends to be ‘expert’ driven. At least so it seems in our little experience consulting in this space. These experts carry out research, set processes in place, jump start initiatives or programs for organizations and other such things which are usually seen as jobs which require considerable expertise. As we have seen here in India, sometimes even seemingly routine activities like monitoring and evaluation (M & E) is done by people from outside the organization who are hired specially for the job. Except external evaluations which require the evaluating individual or team to be a third party, to prevent biases of any sort.

If organizations develop an in-house capability, within their teams to be able to conduct M & E of their own projects then this can have two major benefits – a) saving costs on hiring consultants/experts; b) improved quality of program implementation and outcome. What is being suggested here is that  if those who are implementing a program and also manage it over time are able to conduct small and specific M & E exercises on their own, it would yield significant benefits for the organization. It is these people that I call foot soldiers.

This post shares a simple (and of course limited) template of how project teams can begin to think about M & E in their own programs and offers steps to conduct an evaluation of their own. The concern was shared by the economics professor as well in a lecture on socio-economic analysis. We seemed to agree that this little gap in project teams’ skills can go a long way in driving high quality outcome and learning. He comes with a long experience in consulting aid agencies and large philanthropic foundations. The framework here was presented by him in a lecture this morning. I found it useful because it is application oriented approach.

The framework assumes monitoring and evaluation in a specific sense. Monitoring can be seen under following analytical categories –

  • Impact
  • Outcome
  • Output

Evaluation can have the following objectives –

  • Measure/assess effectiveness: this is to assess significance of the impact that the project set out to achieve
  • Measure/assess efficiency: this is a cost – benefit analysis of the resources used in the project

The framework in Table 1 considers a hypothetical program which aims to reduce Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in an area (village, town etc). We carry out M&E of this project using the framework. It should be noted that the output-outcome-impact and the indicators are linked to each other. One flows from the other. So the project design team should have developed reasonably good explanations for selecting the set of indicators, outcome, output etc that are used in the framework. Indicators that should be a part of the design are considered based on information about the project area, demographics etc.

TABLE 1: A FRAMEWORK FOR MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF A PROJECT

TABLE 1: A FRAMEWORK FOR MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF A PROJECT

Until I figure out how to get a table inside wordpress, I will have to use inserted images.

The table is to be read with first row and first column in conjugation. We begin with listing down what is the intended output (or could be multiple), outcome and impact of the program. The next column will include what are the possible indicators to measure each of these row parameters. The next column indicates data sources used to measure the respective indicator. And finally, the last column lists the assumptions that have been made while developing the given indicator. The assumptions are an important aspect because it helps in gaining a clarity on what does the program assumes will work (or will be as given).  I found that when attempted for other programs, this approach helped me gain a sharper understanding of outcomes, indicators and how do measure the indicators.

Some might argue that this is an oversimplified approach to M & E. They would be correct in saying so. But what is suggested here is its use as a diagnostic tool. It is to be an exercise in gaining preliminary understanding and a sense of progress of your program. It sure cannot be a theoretically and academically correct M & E exercise involving recognized methods.

 

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