There are countless great reasons for investing in and developing your Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes and systems. It is something that we should all being in development policy and practice to ensure that we are adding the most value to our work and that the work is having the greatest positive impact it can, but at the same time, it can be costly and difficult. Here are ten great reasons why the investment in good M&E upfront will pay off.
#1 Understanding the change you are making
Many M&E practitioners work in complex socials where things can be both outputs and outcomes, as well as causes along pathways of change. Good M&E practice aims to understand causation, or to tell a story of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the change took place. A high level impact evaluation might be able to tell you that something changed, but then delving more deeply with M&E build around mixed methods modes of analysis helps us unpack the black box between knowing there is positive change and knowing what this is all about; how the lived experience of participants or stakeholders was influenced to result in the ultimate change.
#2 More meaningful advocacy
With this deeper understanding of our practice which could M&E can yield, this also makes for more meaningful advocacy around what is taking place, and precisely how livelihoods can be improved. For example, M&E that captures stories through case studies enables practitioners to capture those critical to growing the change with personal stories of the change that took place. Focus groups, or surveys might uncover how to motivate improved citizenry, or precisely what makes mothers more able to access and provide relevant care in specific contexts. Good M&E will not only measure your work but will provide you with the information you need to advocate and grow your impact.
#3 Sharing this understanding – advocacy and enriching development
Sharing your learning is key to enabling other key role players to support and grow your work in the right way. Through your sound M&E practice, you may find that a certain learning programme only has 30% greater impact on learning outcomes when coupled with a support system of social care and knowing this might advise advocacy for quite a different government intervention. Using good data and M&E will provide you with a rich analytic framework, as well as personal stories to fundamentally empower your ability to share rich and useful information. The more of this we can develop within the sector, the closer we may become to building new economies, new social systems which truly speak to needs, understanding context, and delivering proven programmes for measurable results.
#4 Strategic Oversight – cost-benefit and goal setting
Sound M&E should always work hand in glove with Strategy. No matter where your project or programme might be on its business development pathway, your M&E should form the backbone information management system to track your progress and chart your path. Good M&E will enable you to be able to make better decisions as your work becomes more reflective and the base of information from which to you are able to interpret your impact grows.
#5 Understanding external factors – context and regional differences
As you undertake good M&E, asking questions about what works and why, you will naturally uncover a great deal about the context in which your work takes place. As part of your M&E you might conduct a needs analysis when you uncover a certain geography where change is not taking place as it is elsewhere, and findings will enable you to understand not only when things work, but also when they don’t and what you can do about this. This contextual learning is critical to growing our knowledge of the social dynamics which drive and hinder change so that future social investments can provide the most relevant support, and leverage even greater impact.
#6 Stakeholder Relationships
Conducting good M&E will inevitably mean engaging with key stakeholders. Building these relationships is key to making the change you create sustainable over longer periods. As an example, when working in rural Africa, you may need to engage with local community leaders to gain critical insights for your programme. Through your M&E implementation, and by listening to their own insights about the problems you seek to solve, you may engage them in solution building. These individuals may become the leaders of your programme as it grows, or they may be able to persuade a more powerful group of political leaders to draw in resources and support the work you do. Advocacy and real change are really all about relationships. But at the same time, a little bit of evidence-based practice thrown in certainly never did any harm.
#7 Revenue Generation
One of the most satisfying outcomes of good M&E is that it speaks right to a key interest group: – funders. Programmes which can show that their programmes work to achieve impact will naturally attract funding, and those with M&E in their essence, those with a truly reflective practice will attract influential thought leaders and will be best placed to sustain funding scaling into new settings with different sets of contextual challenges.
#8 Programmatic strengthening: Feedback Loops and Programme Improvement
M&E enables organisations to craft a story, and to build an evidence base, but more significantly, it can enable those individuals working in the organisation to rekindle their purpose as they see evidence of the change they have created reflected in data, and as they explore the strategic implications for the organisation’s purpose. Individual team members can learn a great deal as you share your M&E findings and lessons learnt.
#9 Scale and Growth
Strong M&E means more funding. As you can use the M&E to show that your programme works, you will be able to make a strong case for readiness for scale. M&E and linking this to your strategic intention will enable you to chart your course, and to develop and propose growth strategies founded in evidence. Good M&E and the ability to report powerfully on impact is key to your growth.
#10 Documenting your pathway to success
There is strong evidence that institutional memory is key to strong and sustained organisational growth. This is about retaining good people, who hold the organisations experience, but also in ensuring that the work is well documented, building a body of knowledge which has developmentally defined the work and the organisation implementing it. Comprehensive M&E, which captures key learnings, and the developmental process will tell a powerful story of the change created and will add great value to the sector.