As an M&E officer, there a few important hard skills worth brushing up on. At the same time, M&E is a great deal about a set of core competencies, relevant to the changing world of work. M&E is really all about strategy and about understanding change. Remaining dynamic and responsive are key as you grow your career in M&E and many of these competencies will ensure that you will always have a place in the market. This list includes some of the more direct skills which will stand you in good stead as an M&E officer, but also includes a range of core competencies which will make your that your M&E career shines.
#1 Design and Strategy
Good M&E requires an excellent understanding of programmatic design, and a good grasp of strategy. This is not an essential skill as you embark on your first Data Officer role, but if you are the kind of person who is a strategic thinker, someone who thinks in systems, and can hold a bird’s eye view of a challenge and its solution, you then would likely be well placed for a career in impact.
If over analysing things is something you do a great deal, then why not put it to good use! Looking at social systems through an impact lens takes an analytical mind. As an M&E officer, you will find that having an analytical way of thinking will ensure that your practice keeps pace with the programme. M&E is not simply about analysing and presenting data, although this is a critical skill, it is about reflective thinking, and being able to understand the stories behind the data.
#3 Data Skills
Data skills are critical for any M&E officer. Coupled with strong analytical skills, a knowledge of how to analyse and visualise data is key. This may include having a good command of data analytic and visualisation software. If you enjoy presenting and communicating stories of change using data, then M&E officer is a great position for you. Be sure to always enrich your work by deepening your understanding of social systems and the complexity of development practice.
#4 Report Writing
Once the numbers have been crunched, being able to explain the insights through clear reporting is a critical part of M&E practice. Report writing is required to keep funders updated, to build advocacy, and most importantly, to provide feedback to programme practitioners as they do their work, to ensure that impact is optimised.
As M&E officer, having good presentation skills will always stand you in good stead and will enable you to progress your career faster. Analysing the data is only the first step, but communicating and presenting this makes the work real, and is the key to deriving all the benefits from M&E including more informed programming, improved impact and more meaningful advocacy.
The enquiring mind is well suited to M&E, in a craft where the only constant is change. Asking the right questions is key, and a desire to explore more contest, to better understand issue areas and solution sets will ensure that your practice is always well informed. If you enjoy learning, and find that in all other jobs, you stayed curious, then this will be a great fit for you.
Creativity and ingenuity are great skills in M&E. Although data might seem as if it fits more squarely in the left-brain court, combining this with data visualisation skills, and conceptualising presentations of impact in inherently a creative process. If you love building, crafting and telling stories, then you’d be a great fit for a position as impact officer.
#8 Attention to detail
Much M&E work takes meticulous attention to detail. Working with data requires a special kind of focus, and in M&E accurate and clean data is critical. If you have excellent focus, and an abbreviation for perfection, then you’d make a great M&E officer.
M&E work is challenging, filled with challengers. With fierce competition for funding and high standards for rigour when it comes to impact reporting, it is important to have the skills of being able to try-try-again.
#10 Purpose Driven
The more the work you undertake matches your own purpose the more motivated you will be to uncover the real learnings, and to assist in achieving impact. Find your Dharma, your calling, that thing that keeps you up at night, the solution that just keeps you asking questions. If you operate to serve, heal, solve and build- then this and your purpose will keep driving you to greater heights in your development career.
10 Online Courses to Develop the Skills You Need
One easily accessible way to hone your skills as M&E officer are online courses. Below we have added several free and paid courses you may want to consider:
- Programme Management: A Monitoring and Evaluation Approach (University of Cape Town)
- Program Design & Evaluation for Health Systems Strengthening (Johns Hopkins University)
- Essentials of Program Strategy and Evaluation (Stanford University)
- Social Norms, Social Change (University of Pennsylvania + UNICEF)
- Quantitative and Qualitative Research for Beginners (NUS)
- Research for Impact (Oxfam)
- Gender Analytics: Gender Equity through Inclusive Design (University of Toronto)
- Community Organizing for Social Justice (University of Michigan)
- From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development (Oxford University)
- Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030 (Bocconi University)