Where should monitoring and evaluation sit in an NGO? This used to seem like a straightforward question with a straightforward answer: in its own team. But that solution views monitoring and evaluation as something separate from day-of-day project and planning activities and does not encourage a deep level of integration of monitoring (and learning) activities in the project delivery team.
How many times have we all sighed when yet another email about data or about a learning session has come through that we just don’t have the time to deal with or attend? Most project staff are busy already and don’t have the time to worry about monitoring and learning and evaluations.
This segregated approach misses the point about what monitoring is and what activities project teams should be doing every day.
Managing interventions and projects means that staff should be collecting and analysing quantitative data on a very regular basis (possibly also qualitative data). It is the project staff who need and use the data most of the time and a monitoring specialist wouldn’t be much use every day. So day to day monitoring activity should really be part of project team and core team responsibilities. After all, they are the people working most closely with the communities and beneficiaries every day and who are building up that trust and engagement with individuals.
Further up the organisational hierarchy, managers and senior managers will use the monitoring data generated differently, for example: generating regional performance reports for the board or secretariat, creating info-graphics for a fundraising or awareness campaign based on the collected data, team performance management, etc., and may need either different skills or different support from technical specialists.
Of course designing the monitoring and evaluation plan is key to determining who does what when and I will cover that in a future post, keeping in mind that programme staff are key to monitoring success.
I haven’t tackled evaluation so much in this post. That is because most evaluation is about external validation of what you have already done. It’s relationship to a project or your NGO’s strategy is slightly different to that of monitoring.
However learning activities are very similar to monitoring activities in that they should be included in day-to-day operational responsibilities. Let’s face it: none of us knows it all and we can all do with learning from others’ experiences. But often that means taking time out from project activities, which can be challenging. Then again, learning is vitally important to keeping your own skills up to date and improving your own abilities; which in turn makes you more effective in your project work. So when you think about it, learning is really all about delivering your projects on a day-to-day basis. We just don’t treat it as such.
If you think about monitoring activity in relation to the data that it generates and who uses that data, you might find that the responsibility for monitoring might be in the wrong place. Where does your monitoring activity sit and do you think it is in the right place?