What is Monitoring
Definition of Monitoring:
The Periodic tracking (for example, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually) of any activity’s progress by systematically gathering and analyzing data and information is called Monitoring. The target audience/beneficiaries must be defined along with what you are doing, and whether your activities are being implemented as planned or not.
Monitoring of a program or intervention involves the collection of routine data that measures progress toward achieving program objectives. It is used to track changes in program outputs and performance over time. It provides regular feedback and early indications of progress (or lack of progress). Its purpose is to permit the management and stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding the effectiveness of programs and the efficient use of resources.
When should Monitoring Take Place:
- M&E is a continuous process that occurs throughout the life of a program (PCM).
- To be most effective, M&E should be planned at the design stage of a program, with all the resources (time, money, and personnel) that will be required calculated and allocated in advance.
- Monitoring should be conducted at every stage of the program, with data collected, analyzed, and used on a continuous basis.
- Usually about 7% of the total budget of the project is allocated to M&E
- Evaluations are usually conducted at the end of programs. However, they should be planned for at the start because they rely on data collected throughout the program, with baseline data being especially important.
What to monitor
Level in Objective Hierarchy
What to Monitor and Evaluate
Have planned activities been completed on time and within budget? What unplanned activities have been completed.
What direct tangible products or services has the project delivered as a result of activities.
What changes have occurred as a result of the outputs and to what extent are these likely to contribute towards the project propose and desired impact.
To what extant has the project contributed towards its longer terms goals? Why or why not? What unanticipated positive or negative consequences did the project have? Why did they arise?
Types of Monitoring
- Process Monitoring (Real Time Monitoring)
- Progress Tracking
- Progress Validation
- Performance Monitoring
Process monitoring is a key component of any M&E system. Process monitoring informs management and a donor about the actual implementation of project activities in the field. At the same time process monitoring let the project staff on ground know how well they implements the project and what improvement they can bring to the work they are doing in field.
Process monitoring is conducted using checklists and guidelines. Those checklists are developed jointly with project staff. The same checklists and guidelines are used by field staff while implementing project activities. Following the same checklists/guidelines by both the monitoring staff and the field staff help the M&E staff to identify and share gaps that are identified during the process monitoring. Participants were shared a sample of monitoring guidelines. In order to undertake process monitoring, a monitoring tool is required that capture the following information:
- Purpose of the monitoring visit
- Which activity does the visit covers
- Methodology adopted for the visit
- Key findings from the field
- Feedback by the field staff
- Debriefing points agreed
- Deadlines and responsibilities
A sample tool for field level process monitoring was shared with participants. Participants were oriented on rating of process monitoring reports. It is important to quantify monitoring findings for better analysis. Traffic lights (Green, Amber, and Green) are usually applied for rating findings from the monitoring visits. The lights are explained below:
Every project has set output targets to be achieved. One of the key functions of any robust M&E system is to capture progress against those output targets. A tracking sheet is required to outline all output indicators for key activities along with target values for those output indicators. The targets could be divided into quarters/years. Progress is entered against those targets and the trackers automatically calculate deviation against the targets.
Progress is tracked for two reasons:
- To see whether the project is on-track or off-track
- To assess whether time-critical activities are taking place as per the calendar or not.
The information could be used by partners in writing and submitting progress reports to donors.
Progress validation is another important type of monitoring. Progress of key project activities are usually reported by the field staff. In order to validate the output progress reported, the M&E staff collect the Output Tracker and identify output indicators to be validated. Validation/verification is initiated by collecting of Means of Verification (MoV). Once MoV are collected, the M&E staff takes a sample out of those and physically verifies the activities. This is followed by assessing and verifying thoroughly the process being adopted by field staff while conducting that specific activity. At the same time, if the activity has been undertaken a while ago, performance and outcomes of the intervention is also assessed.
Output is validated in field using the same tool and guidelines used for process monitoring.
Participants were explained that projects are mainly designed and funded to achieve desired outcomes. Assessing those outcomes and changes are the key functions of M&E Unit. ‘Value for Money’ of a project is assessed through assessment of performance indicators.
Performance or outcome indicators are usually outlined from the project proposals and these are inserted into an M&E plan.
To assess progress for performance indicators, baseline is important. Baseline data shows the pre-project status of performance/outcome indicators. There are certain indicators which associated with behavior change. For those indicators KAP studies (Knowledge, Attitude and Practices’ are conducted. Baselines/KAP studies are conducted through systematic process and methodologies. Once baseline data is collected, the values are inserted into the M&E plan. Based on the baseline data, realistic targets are set together with the project implementing staff. Once targets for the outcome/performance indicators are set, sources of data and methods of data collection for the indicator is identified. This enables the M&E staff to be aware of data collection sources and sampling to be followed. The M&E plan also provides information about frequency/timeline for each performance indicator to be assessed over a period of time.
Periodic assessments are conducted using the same methodology and tools of the baseline to track performance indicators. Like other M&E studies, periodic assessments are initiated by drafting a Concept Note. The Concept Note briefly outlines:
- Purpose of the assessment
- Scope and indicators to be tracked
- Methodology, tools and sampling size
- Type of tools to be used for the data collection
- Who will participate in the data collection
- When and where the data will be collected
- How the data will be managed and analyzed
- Reporting and timeline
Once periodic assessments are completed, the analysis is entered into the M&E plan and progresses against the outcome indicators are reported.
Types of MNE Studies
- Needs Assessment
- Baseline Study
- KAP Study
- Periodic Assessment
- End-line Study
The Art of Presenting M&E findings