I recently helped a small NGO put together a new Theory of Change and an M&E plan to measure the Theory of Change.

Parts of the process were fairly standard: it was an iterative process, with lots of revision, testing and changing tools and guidance.  But this was an NGO that had no real history of M&E, but was at that stage of increasingly needing to provide data and evidence to its growing group of donors.  So the process was new, the language was new and finding the right place for M&E to sit in the organisation has also been a challenge.

Because it is a small NGO (in every sense), M&E is part of everyone’s work at some level.  I always say that this is the way it should be in organisations of any size, but in smaller NGOs it is easier to get this approach implemented, mostly because there is no dedicated M&E team already in place.

The small team has also been closely involved in deciding what tools can be adapted, what new tools are needed and where and how collected data should be stored and analysed.  These are important decisions to work through because you’re not just taking a decision for your needs, but also for the organisation’s needs in the future, after you have moved on to bigger and better things.

So alongside an online database (they have offices in other parts of the world, so this is an important step for them operationally), the team invested in my time to help them marry current data requirements, new data requirements, the database and the new strategy (and its needs) into a new M&E structure – a new home.

This process of design and implementation of M&E is never really finished.  But my part is almost done, as I finalise the tools and guidance documents.  Each year the NGO will be reviewing its M&E plan and will make changes as needed.  This is a good thing and the way it should be.  Nothing is fixed in M&E never should be.  Interventions (and their results), communities and priorities change continually, so should the tools and plans that we use in response.

What was your experience of putting in an M&E plan?  How often do you review your plan and do you think it still relates to the reporting and data needs of your organisation?


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