Many NGOs tell me that there is a disconnect between what they plan to do and what they end up doing. This affects their monitoring data and ultimately what they are able to report to donors.
This disconnect seems to come from a number of different sources: poor communication, in-country priorities and pressures that are different from those at head office or the secretariat, funding priorities, etc.
But the solution is deceptively simple. In fact, so simple that many think it wouldn’t work or they try to make it more complicated than it needs to be. Simply put: NGOs need to plan properly.
What!?! I hear you say. How dare I suggest that your NGO doesn’t know how to plan? Well, if you think there is a disconnect between what you do and what was planned, and to extend the problem, that evidence from previous interventions is routinely ignored, then your NGO is not planning properly.
Planning is a deceptively simple process.
- The board of trustees have signed off a vision and mission with aims
- The country offices (or similar) consult with local stakeholders about how to achieve those aims in-country and fed this back to head office (or similar) with their business plans (which has to include a fully worked up M&E plan)
- Head office and the country offices have a conversation about how to achieve the aims based on feedback, available funding, head office priorities, in-country priorities
- Agreement is reached and the agreed plans are implemented
Sounds too simple doesn’t it. We are used to far more complicated processes in international development. But sometimes keeping it simple really works. The challenge here is to ensure that everyone is engaged in the process from the start:
- Make sure that evidence from the M&E plan is used when designing new interventions and that M&E is included in the plans from the start
- Have clear, respectful and open channels of communication, listen to everyone
- The people at the coal face know what it takes to deliver these ambitious plans, make sure their experience and knowledge is included
- Stakeholders can make or break your plans, make sure they have been consulted, understand your aims and intentions and that their support is in place
I recently evaluated a set of projects that had been delivered across two multi-country regions with multiple partners and stakeholders. The most successful project was the one where the stakeholders had been involved from the beginning and what had been agreed was what was delivered. Sure they had their challenges along the way and some indicators and targets had to be amended. But throughout the process the NGO kept an open channel of communication to its partner and the stakeholders and everyone was involved in problem solving. It really worked!
- M&E is a core business process and must be included in the planning process from the start
- Communication is key
- The people at the baseof the pyramid have a crucial role to play in planning
How is M&E included in the planning process in your organisation? What could be improved?