The best way to select monitoring priorities is to think about the uses for the information. Determining in advance how the information will be used would allow the M&E staff to avoid gathering data that, although interesting, has no particular function. To help identify priorities, the M&E function asks the user group to consider how the monitoring data collected will be used. Some potential uses for the monitoring data include:
- Improving performance by feeding learning into the management cycle;
- Helping the program meet reporting requirements;
- Supplying information for planned evaluations (external or internal);
- Informing publicity documents and communication activities, or building up case-study materials;
- Learning about a particular (risky or new) partner, strategy, or practice over time; or
- Supporting the learning needs of network partners.
M&E staff asks the users to be as specific as possible about who will use the information; in what documents, presentations, or meetings it will be presented; and when it would be needed in order to be useful. When setting monitoring priorities, it is always important to be realistic about what can be managed, given the available human and financial resources. The cost of monitoring depends on how data collection is organized (for example, through group meetings, workshops, case studies, field visits etc.) and can be as high or low as the organization wants. The M&E staff confirms with the users that the priorities are realistic by asking, “Who will be responsible for collecting the data? How often will it be collected? What methods are best suited to collecting the data?”