The type of M&E system you choose to build, could determine how successful and relevant your M&E is. Finding the right fit it important. There may some standard steps but positioning your M&E system within a specific conceptual framework adds to the quality and makes any analysis far more systematic. Whether you’re working on empirical evidence for a proof of concept, or lots of binary tools to manage process, it’s important to understand that there are ways of thinking about what you do which are as important as what you actually do when conducting and M&E exercise. There are so many different sources out there, outlining so a myriad of evaluation types, sometimes it is difficult to know what kind would suit you best. Better Evaluation features an evaluability assessment which is a really helpful tool to understand how best – in the complex system of monitoring systems, research methods and evaluation types – to position the M&E exercise most suited to your work. This list aims to outline three main subsets,
1 Process Monitoring and Evaluation
Process evaluation generally aims to measure inputs and outputs. How was the process of implementation in comparison to what was stated? This is important for mission-driven NGOs, with a firm proof of concept already in place, as well as number of impact studies, now seeking to ensure that big donors are able to be accountable for the funds spent. Many sources place financial evaluation in a separate box, but this is an important part of the project management process, and accountability in development practice. If you’re running an internship programme, the process evaluation will determine the attendance of the interns, and the implementation of the training, whereas the outcomes and impact monitoring will look at how many people were successfully employed. You can even Process M&E your M&E! Some call this ‘meta-monitoring’.
2 Outcomes and Impact Monitoring and Evaluation
The Evaluation of Outcomes and Impact is frequently separated into a number of other areas, and indeed, the methodology to employ when evaluating impacts may differ from that used for outcomes – this is a broad category. Much of this depends on how you view the ‘sphere of influence’, and what you can really say about causation, but these questions can be addressed in the section on research or technical M&E systems below. The important thing about Outcomes and Impact Evaluation is that is measures whether there was a change. This type of evaluation will measure what happened, along the lines of a LogFrame or Theory of Change. Research M&E, in the following category will explore why the change happened, and whether this can be attributed to the project.
3 Research or Technical M&E
This is by far the most complex area of monitoring and evaluation. This could be a detailed evaluation of the technical design of a solar solution, to measure whether it is effective in reducing a user’s carbon footprint; it cold be a randomised control trial to determine the efficacy of a medication; or it could be an evaluation which seeks to attribute an impact to a specific project intervention. This is about developing a proof of concept, or a body of evidence to justify scaling up.
It is important to remember that monitoring and evaluation are very different things, and each is as important. When you are ‘monitoring’, you may be looking at aspects and changed within your project that you intend, or changes in context or circumstance that you do not intend. The same applies with Evaluation. Your evaluation may be collaborative and open to the change the project has created in an of itself! Or you may be running a type of test on a specific hypothesis of cause and effect. Reading to understand a lot of what these questions mean for your M&E system will not only help you build the best M&E system for your work, but will also guide you to the right funders who share your view of how change, and development actually takes place.