Monitoring & Evaluation: Best Practices

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a critical component of results-based management—or management that commits to the efficient use of resources to achieve agreed-upon strategic goals and objectives. Organizations that employ results-based management (RBM) often rely on a cycle of planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating. They also learn through a cycle of continuous improvement with no starting point and no ending point.

During the planning stage, organizations determine the objectives for their programs and identify the impact they want their program beneficiaries to experience. During the implementing stage, organizations carry out programs and services that align with the strategic plan and help the organization to accomplish its objectives and mission. In the midst of the executing stage, organizations have to monitor progress toward objectives and goals, comply with donor agreements, and adhere to the needs of beneficiaries. These three responsibilities must occur within the organization’s budget constraints. At an agreed upon date, programs need to be evaluated for impact. Lessons learned through M&E are integrated into the next planning stage in order to build stronger, more effective programs.

It is important to remember that programs can be in different stages in this cycle. Due to the realities of our mission, a single program can be engaged with multiple stages at once (e.g. planning and executing).

Why M&E is important?

Monitoring supports the implementation of our tools with accurate evidence-based reporting. During evaluation this type of reporting helps leadership make informed decisions about the direction of your programs.

M&E contributes to organizational learning and knowledge sharing by providing opportunities to reflect upon and share experiences.

Monitoring improves accountability to all of your stakeholders by providing the time and tools to demonstrate that our work has been carried out as agreed and in compliance with our established standards (SMART Objective Guidelines and SMART objectives) and donor requirements.

M&E is an opportunity for stakeholders—especially beneficiaries—to provide critical feedback and input into the direction of your work. This demonstrates our dedication to experiential learning and adaptation.

M&E promotes and celebrates your work by highlighting our accomplishments, building morale and contributing to resource mobilization.

Difficulties of M&E

Time

Finding the time to plan. One way to mitigate this difficulty is to set aside time from actual program work for your program staff to work on M&E. This is not a two-hour meeting. Leadership needs to prioritize M&E before your organization can reap its benefits.

Building systems that lead to adequate monitoring can be time consuming. It can be difficult and time consuming to design surveys, databases, train staff, create tables to consolidate and analyze data.

Taking the time to learn from the information gathered. A grave mistake is taking the time to design surveys but not leaving time for data entry and data analysis. It may be wise to choose a few pieces of information for careful collection and evaluation. This is ultimately better than implementing a large monitoring plan that you’ll never have the capacity to evaluate.

Terminology. Take the time to unite your organization on common terminology (the meaning of goal vs. objective; output vs. impact, etc.). Create definitions and standardize them throughout your organization.

Making M&E part of the routine. Integrating monitoring and evaluation to form part of daily practice may be difficult at first. Build a creative M&E program with incentives for participation. You may find below a guideline to conducting a quarterly learning meeting.

Further resources