A “Guide for Project M&E” produced in 2002 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and written in clear language, still provides solid, practical, and actionable advice on the design, and implementation of a Monitoring and Evaluation system. The RBM tools provided here remain useful for project design, planning, monitoring, reporting or evaluation, in 2014 or beyond.
Who This is for
Dividing the guide into discrete components is a fairly intelligent approach, given that many of the people who may want to use the ideas could be working in remote areas, may not have access to high-speed internet connections, and may not be able to download the entire guide. If you are going to read only individual chapters, however, I suggest trying to download the individual chapter PDF files, because the illustrations are better in those, and navigation on the online version is sometimes erratic. All of the individual section files are of manageable size, between 160-280 kb.
If you want to download the entire Guide, which is a little over 3 mb in size, you can do it too. When I downloaded the zip file, it opened as 14 separate PDF documents, in any case. Putting them together into one document is reasonably easy, if you have Adobe Acrobat or one of the cheaper alternative PDF programmes, but this could be annoying for some readers.
Navigating the Guide
|Navigating the IFAD M&E Guide|
Monitoring and Evaluation in IFAD
M&E and Impact
- Developing the logic of the project, to ensure there is a clear link between activities and results,
- Linking the provision of information through M&E to key decision schedules,
- Creating a learning environment with the project and using M&E within this learning environment to increase the chances that long term results (impacts) will be achieved,
- Setting Up and Using an M&E system that is simple, and which provides data for decision making
- Understanding participatory M&E – and how to make it work.
M&E, project design and annual work planning
- At the initial project design phase,
- During project start-up,
- During the annual work planning phase,
- During ongoing project operations,
- At the end of the early implementation stage, during mid-term reviews, and
- At the beginning of the project phase-out.
Moving from the Logical Framework to an annual work plan
Building a Monitoring & Evaluation System
- Clarification of the purpose and scope of monitoring and evaluation with key stakeholders,
- Specifying information and indicators required, and the relevance of such information for specific groups,
- Planning and testing the feasibility of information gathering methods required,
- Specifying the target audiences for M&E data, how these audiences will use the data, the schedule on which they need the data, and how it will be transmitted,
- Specifying how such data will be used in critical reflection by stakeholders, with what methods, for what purpose, and on what schedule, and
- Planning for the precise number of M&E staff, their roles and responsibilities, the budget, and the information management system that will be used for M&E.
Critical reflection on M&E data
- Examples of 7 stages where specific attention could be given to the specific participants in reflection activities,
- The schedule and format for discussions,
- How to critically examine project strategy,
- Whether M&E is meeting information needs,
- How data can be used during quarterly project reviews, during field visits, and during annual project reviews, How M&E data can be used during period review workshops for specific project components and in preparation for supervision or monitoring missions.
The M&E operational plan
Information needs and Indicators
Varying information needs of stakeholders
Using the M&E Matrix
Collecting and Using Meaningful Indicator Data
"Data travel. On this journey they are gradually collated and analysed as the data move from field sites or different project staff and partner organisations to be centrally available for management decisions and reports. The journey involves a transformation from data to information and knowledge that is the basis of decisions. Data are the raw material that has no meaning yet. Information involves adding meaning by synthesising and analysing it. Knowledge emerges when the information is related back to a concrete situation in order to establish explanations and lessons for decisions. Many rural development projects have much data lying around, less information, little knowledge and hence very little use of the original data for decision making." [Knowing the Journey Data Will Take, section 6, p.1]
Data collection methods
- Important steps in the preparation for data collection
- Methods of ensuring that the M&E data collected is reliable
- Options for recording data
- What we do with the M&E data after we collect it – collating data, analyzing data, documenting information derived from the data, and communicating it effectively to important decision makers – in other words, transforming M&E data into information, and then into actionable knowledge.
- Sampling-related methods
- Core M&E methods
- Discussion methods (for groups)
- Methods for spatially-distributed information
- Methods for time-based patterns of change
- Methods for analyzing linkages and relationships
- Methods for ranking and prioritizing
M&E Capacity Development
- National M&E systems,
- Institutional M&E systems,
- Establishing a monitoring and evaluation system at the project level.
Incentives to conduct and use M&EThe guide also deals with something which is often neglected, in my experience – incentives for M&E: Why should staff and stakeholder actually want to improve monitoring and evaluation, given all of the other pressures they face?
We know from studies of how innovations and new policies are implemented, that adoption motivation is a critical element in whether innovations such as new approaches to M&E or RBM are sustainably implemented over time. Making such system easy to understand and easy to use, increases such motivation.
Locating an M&E unit in the project structure
Many agencies really avoid talking about problems they have, but we learn the most from honestly analysed mistakes, and these are issues and problems that other people, in other agencies, can recognize from their own experience.
Balancing M&E technical assistance with M&E capacity development
Computerizing M&E data – and establishing the M&E Budget
Learning from the Monitoring and Evaluation Process
Making Lessons Learned more than a cliché
Reflection on M&E data is a Learning Process
- Making project team meetings reflective
- Reflecting on issues with different stakeholders (such as, in the IFAD case, water users’ associations, micro-credit groups, and village associations)
- Using Steering Groups for critical reflection (something that I have seen often studiously avoided in rushed, rubber-stamp meetings of donors, for example)
- Using Annual Project Review and Annual Work Planning processes as a focus for critical reflection and learning
- Learning Useful and productive lessons from external Supervision or monitoring missions
- Assessing Impact at Project Completion.