Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s leading NGOs and some of the smallest NGOs in the world, reviewing and evaluating their work to find out how much change and impact they had made.
What I have found really surprised me: NGOs don’t always know that they are making a difference and they don’t always know why.
Let me explain. You work hard in the field to implement a project that you are certain will improve the lives of the people in your community. You know this because they have told you this is what they wanted or needed. But then along comes the donor or funder and asks you for proof. So you keep track of how many people have made use of your services and you collect a few cases studies that you believe tell the success story that is your project. But somehow the evaluator doesn’t see it that way or challenges you on some of the results that you were not even aware of, and somehow the project never really gets off the ground. And you don’t really know why but apparently its got something to do with your monitoring plan and activities.
Time and again I’ve seen NGOs scratch their heads at the results that evaluators come up with and never really understand why projects either are or aren’t successful. Equally, NGOs don’t always take into consideration that some interventions, no matter how honourable or successful, may have some unintended results that affect members of the community negatively.
What I have realised is that NGOs often don’t understand that collecting, analysing and using data is central to their day-to-day work and their overall strategy. Often monitoring and evaluation is seen as some sort of specialist “black arts” type activity that can destroy projects or reduce NGO workers to nothing more than paper-pushers. When in reality M&E can help you to improve your strategy for making real impact and help you to be clearer about the messages you give out to your supporters and donors, as well as making the day-to-day running of your project that much easier.
The purpose of this blog is to break down the barriers between monitoring, evaluation and learning and the rest of the organisation and demonstrate that M&E is central to what NGOs do, is a core function of being an NGO and can make life easier and clearer.
Along the way I will talk about different tools and approaches and highlight systems and new innovations in M&E that I think will make your life easier. I will try to keep this blog as jargon-free as possible.
I am keen to hear from you too. Your stories and your questions and problems. Your contributions will help keep this blog relevant and reader-focused. So subscribe to my feed or follow me on twitter and let me know what you think!