What is Monitoring?
Monitoring is the process of continuous assessment of the progress of a project or programme. The project could be implemented by governments, private players, international bodies, Non-profits etc. Monitoring involves collection and analysis of data, such that it is able to provide information on the progress or lack thereof of a project. Progress is measured against agreed milestones. Monitoring helps to detect if the project is moving as expected or if it requires a course correction. For example, a programme with a goal of reducing iron deficiency amongst children of age less than 5 years, might track weekly or monthly number of children that received iron supplements.
What is Evaluation?
Evaluation on the other hand, assesses if the project that was implemented has been able to meet its long-term objectives and goals. Evaluation, thus, looks at the overall performance of the project and the larger impact that it has had on the beneficiaries. Taking our above example ahead, while evaluating the impact of the health programme, one would want to see if iron deficiency reduced amongst children less than 5 years of age, due to the activities undertaken during this programme. While evaluating the effectiveness of a programme, apart from its impact, a cost-benefit analysis might also be undertaken; or an inclusivity analysis that shows the reach of the programme or an efficiency analysis that looks at how productively the resources were utilized.
Thus, Monitoring and Evaluation are management tools that use a combination of data collection, analysis and reporting to measure the overall success of the programme.
What is the difference between Monitoring and Evaluation?
While monitoring is a process that is carried out through out the life of a project, evaluation is typically carried out towards the end of the project or a set time in the project life-cycle. Feedback from monitoring would be most important for the Project Manager who might want to keep a track of the pace and direction of progress of the project. Evaluation on the other hand, might have a different set to audience, including the body providing financial aid (donors), the beneficiary themselves, implementing agencies and/ or other stakeholders like government ministries that might be interested in scaling up the project.
What are the main components of a Monitoring Plan?
Following four components make up a solid monitoring plan:
- Identifying the Project Objectives: Typically, at the time of the conception of the project, it’s objective would be decided. These are usually represented in a Log Framework or Theory of Change model for the project. In case the objectives of the project are not fully defined, before a monitoring plan is made, these could be clearly identified. This would include defining the task or problem at hand, the activities undertaken to achieve these and the milestones that would signal the achievement.
- Specifying Indicators: This includes defining the exact measure for tracking the progress and outcomes of the project. Indictors are of two types: a) Process Indicators that show how far along particular activities have moved. In our iron deficiency example, this could be number of iron capsules given out per capita to children less than 5 years of age in the first month of the project. b) Outcome Indicators, these measure the output of the project. An example of an outcome indicator could be percentage of children covered under the project that reported Anemia. Note that Indicators should be precise. Indicators could be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative indicators should be specific and measurable while qualitative indicators should be defined in such a way that they are interpreted and communicated correctly. It is also important that the definition of the indicator is not changed over time.
- Detailing Data Collection Methods, Frequency and Responsibilities: In order to compute the indicators properly, it is important to select the proper data collection methodology. This would mean whether information could be collected from secondary data or if primary data collection needs to be done. In case of the latter, proper survey tools and techniques need to be mentioned. For instance, primary data could be collected through surveys, filed visits, reviews, stakeholder engagement exercised etc. It is also important to understand the frequency at which the data needs to collected. This is an important step as achievement of milestones would depend on the direction in which the said indictor is moving, which in turn would be a function of the data collection methods. Data collection should be done both to define the baseline and the targets achieved periodically. It is important to define roles and responsibilities for data collection for each indictor. These responsibilities could be research or M&E staff or might be outsourced to a third party.
- Analysing the Data and Reporting: Once data is collected, it is important to undertake a proper analysis. This is typically done by the M&E team or by the data analytics expert. Analysing data would help in identifying the progress on the project. A monitoring plan should include what tools, techniques and software should be used while analysing the data. Reporting templates should be prepared before hand along with plans for internal and external reporting. There are multiple stakeholders who might be interested in gauging the impact of the project, ranging from donors to implementors to beneficiaries to government bodies. Reporting for each of these might need to different as they would be interested in different aspects. This needs to be kept in mind while working on these reports.
What Things Should be Considered While Developing an Evaluation Framework?
- Purpose of Evaluation – Like monitoring, evaluation might also have different audience and their needs and requirements should be kept in mind while preparing the evaluation framework.
- Independent – Evaluation should be free from any kind of a bias. It should not be designed in a way such that targets seem overachieved or grossly underachieved. In terms of collection of data, it should be done as objectively as possible and should be free from any kind of selection bias (choosing data in a way that is not representative of the true picture either in terms of sampling or in terms of self-selection or participation), overgeneralization bias (a homogenous sample is used to deduce findings for the population that otherwise might be heterogenous) or information bias (any systematic error in collecting, recording or handling of data).
- RESSI to judge the Project –
- Relevance: Extent to which the outcomes of the project were in sync with the larger priorities or strategic areas
- Effectiveness: If the project achieved the desired outcome as set during its initiation
- Efficiency: a measure of cost-benefit analysis. That is, proportion of inputs used to achieve the desired outcomes
- Sustainability: if the achieved results can be supported for a longer frame of time
- Impact: The extent to which the said project has contributed towards the larger picture.