When done well, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can enable non-profit organisations to measure their impact, improve upon and secure funding for their work. However, if not properly integrated into work plans, M&E can be time and resource intensive. Executive director of Corruption Watch, David Lewis, offers broad and strategic perspective on the role of M&E in development, as well as advice on how organisations can plan for, embed and fund these imperative processes.
Is M&E more difficult in an advocacy environment, compared to an activity- implementing organisation?
Yes, M&E is complicated for Corruption Watch (CW) as there is seldom a clear linear connection between our activities, and the resultant outcomes. Our outcomes are harder to define, and it is difficult to determine the portion of success attributable to CW’s intervention. In a health development programme, for example, the number of ARVs prescribed could fairly easily be linked to health improvements. For CW, however, it is not possible to measure whether our campaign resulted in a decrease in corruption.
Our recent Public Protector campaign had what we would consider a very successful outcome. However, it is difficult to understand the portion of success attributable to the office of the Public Protector, and to the CW campaign’s amplification of the issues. We can only take responsibility for having laid the groundwork for reductions in corruption to happen.
How can M&E processes be effectively embedded into the way an organisation is run, without drawing too much resource from direct project work?
Leadership needs to buy-in and drive M&E; it cannot simply be handed to a junior staff member who lacks the authority to insist that M&E is undertaken on all projects. When we first started implementing M&E, most managers saw this as a burden, something that they had to do in addition to their current jobs. Then it dawned on us that M&E has value, not only to the funders, but to our organisation.
We have therefore incorporated M&E into our daily activities. None of our managers would develop a project nowadays without an M&E framework in place prior to the attempt to raise funding. Without an M&E framework, projects are unlikely to receive funding. Furthermore, the framework is key to understanding how the project’s desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.
Do insights gained from M&E feed your organisational learnings and strategy?
Each of our programmes has an M&E framework. We measure a number of indicators regularly for each project, and this enables us to see if we are falling short. Should we pick up an issue through this process, we can revise the project messaging or change the radio timeslots used as the process is unfolding. For example, during our schools campaign, our M&E showed that a large number of reports centred on corruption in the management of school resources. As such, we were able to focus our public communication on this issue and therefore achieve a successful campaign.
As with the majority of NPOs, CW has limited resources and we cannot afford to go down a path that does not yield positive outcomes. M&E is not just for funders, it is necessary to make sure the relevant programme outputs are efficiently achieved, and that poor project methodologies are quickly changed.
Does M&E assist your relationships with funders?
Our funders require us to outline the goals that we seek to achieve through a project, in our funding proposals. We put these goals into our M&E framework, and develop underlying performance indicators accordingly. As such, when we feed back to the funders, we can clearly report on the indicators outlined in the proposal.
What advice would you give other NPOs for establishing and funding M&E processes?
I recommend that NPOs take M&E seriously and embed it at the beginning of the project. Even if you don’t yet see the value in it, your funders are going to insist that you do it. Also, engage with your funders and interrogate how to do M&E, given your project’s objectives. Give funders the opportunity to be actively involved; funders should not only preach, but put their money where their mouths are. Have the discussion with them about additional funding, specifically earmarked for M&E.
By David Lewis
011 242 3900, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Trialogue CSI Handbook 2016