Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is an important and integral part of the Zenex Foundation funding approach. It is important to our ongoing learning, informing project design and rollout and adds to the body of evidence about education interventions. When Zenex started to embed M&E practices within the organisation, there was a high level of buy-in from the Zenex Board, who recognised the importance of this approach. Our Board have been strong proponents of M&E to drive an evidence- based strategy. Our M&E approach includes planning and budgeting for M&E activities, developing internal M&E capacity and using evaluations for learning and influencing policy and practice in the evaluation sector.
Our funding approach has developed over time. In the early years, we had a scattershot approach of making small investments in multiple projects. This changed in the early 2000s to investment in a few strategic projects. Over the years the quality of our evaluations also improved. We initially struggled with evaluation design, particularly impact evaluations. This was in part, due to the limited evaluation experience within Zenex and partly because the M&E sector was in its infancy stage.
Our expertise in commissioning and design grew simultaneously with the education M&E sector, and developments such as the establishment of the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA), an increase in scholarship, growth in the number of accredited qualifications, and the establishment of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).
Our investment in M&E has informed our strategy. Not all evaluations have shown positive results from our funded interventions. However, in the spirit of learning, we have shared these with the sector. Through our M&E work, we have seen the need to build capacity in the M&E sector, particularly in education. While we have an ongoing commitment to M&E in our portfolio, we will also contribute to strengthening M&E in the sector. The importance of building capacity for education M&E was further cemented by the findings of our M&E landscape study, which showed that the demand for M&E and capacity-building in M&E remains high in the country and that the greatest constraint in M&E programmes in the country is the lack of capacity.
While we have made significant strides towards embedding M&E, the next step in the journey is to focus on utilisation and uptake. This means maximising the use of evaluation findings to inform our projects and to optimise the influence of findings on wider policies and practices. Ultimately we aim to contribute to finding solutions to educational problems through evidence generated from evaluation studies.
In 2018, we ran a social media campaign on M&E with inputs from various writers. This publication includes an anthology of articles from Zenex staff, M&E experts and NGOs reflecting on their experiences in M&E.
Source: Lessons and Reflections about Implementing M&E in South Africa: An anthology of articles by Zenex staff, M&E experts and NGOs. www.zenexfoundation.org.za