Welcome to this article on monitoring and evaluation, where we explore the benefits of monitoring and evaluation within your organisation. If you would like an in-depth look at monitoring and evaluation and the key differences between them, then we recommend our article on the differences between monitoring and evaluation. If you are interested in learning more about monitoring and evaluation, you can also refer to our Theory of Change and Impact Measurement training, or contact us about how we can support you in developing M&E frameworks within your organisation.
What is monitoring and evaluation?
Monitoring and Evaluation at its core is all about improving performance. It’s done through gathering information, forming judgments about that information and taking action based on the results.
If we take these three things in turn then, what do we mean?
1) Gathering information – One of the key elements of both monitoring and evaluation is in the collecting of information (or more accurately data). Effective monitoring and evaluation often involves a combination of numerical data e.g. number of attendees at a workshop and non-numerical e.g. written feedback from a focus group to help create a picture of what is happening or happened.
2) Forming judgments – Data we receive doesn’t mean much on its own. In order to use it to make decisions, we need to form judgments around what the values mean. For example, if we know that your staff have spent 30 hours of time and £10,000 on marketing of a new project, is that good or bad? That will entirely depend on what resources you have planned to use on the project, the size and scale of the project, how much of the work you have achieved to date and what is left outstanding. It is, therefore, important to always make an assessment of what the data you collect actually means.
3) Taking action – Using the judgments or assessments you’ve made to make decisions about how to proceed.
Decision making from monitoring data
Decision making from evaluation data
Benefits of Monitoring and Evaluation
Since monitoring and evaluation is all about using data to form judgments and make decisions, it is no wonder that one of the biggest benefits of monitoring and evaluation, is that it helps you make decisions. An effective monitoring and evaluation approach, provides you with the information you need to make good decisions about how to move forward. Decisions like whether you should cancel a project or what programme you should develop next, are some of the hardest questions to answer for an organisation. As a result, the information you get from your monitoring and evaluation activities can be invaluable in supporting you to make challenging decisions about your current and future projects and how to proceed. It supports you in knowing if you are being effective, what is going well and what is going wrong, and how you can operate better in the future.
Improved project performance:
Monitoring the progress of a project helps you understand how the project is performing and whether or not it is achieving what you expected it to, within the time frame and resources you had set aside for it. Ongoing monitoring of a project, allows you to spot potential problems early, such as missing key deadlines, overspending in certain areas, and even identifying whether your identified outcomes are changing as you had predicted. Crucially, this information can then be used to take actions to improve the performance of your project – getting it back on track as problems arise and optimising the areas which are going well. The danger of running a project with no M&E activities, is that you can continue on a project, which is not effective and doesn’t deliver what you were hoping, whilst simultaneously consuming precious time and resource. Well-thought out monitoring and evaluation processes, used throughout can improve your project’s performance and optimise what you deliver.
Creating the change you want to see in the world:
Another benefit of monitoring and evaluation is it helps you assess the outcomes and impact your project(s) have had. The process means you collect the necessary data and evaluate it, so that you can understand what effect your project had, both intended and unintended, on your beneficiaries. As an organisation, this means you can understand which of your projects have been effective or not, so that you only move forward with those that truly create change in the world. It also means you have the information you need to improve your ongoing projects and refine them so they better serve your beneficiaries. Impact measurement can be challenging but vital to ensuring that you are creating the change you want to see in the world and delivering on your long term objectives.
Guiding future projects
Developing a strategic plan or designing future projects can be difficult. There are so many options with how to move forward, but with limited time and resources, it can be challenging to narrow it down to selected projects and with a focused path for the future. The benefit of monitoring and evaluation is thatit not only provides you with the information for your current projects, but future ones as well. If you have determined what has worked well in the past, and what didn’t, you will be better placed to design future projects that you can be confident will be effective. You will also have the details you need to be able to make reasonable estimates of the resources and time that these projects will take, so you can plan these out and set them aside.
Learning for the future
And finally, M&E supports you in learning and developing. There are always things, which as an organisation you can improve on and develop. The information you collect through monitoring and develop can help you learn from experiences and improve in the future. Without a solid process in place, it can be easy for things that were learnt on one project to be lost for the next one. A robust M&E approach can help you develop and retain your organisation’s “memory” so the learning from experiences can be retained over time.