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Steps in developing a monitoring and evaluation system

Several studies show varying numbers, steps and specific sequences for developing an M&E system (Kusek & Rist, 2004). Whereas different scholarly works have recommended between four and seven steps (Motingoe, 2012), Kusek and Rist (2004) outline ten steps for designing an M&E system. This indicates that there is no single approach to designing and developing an M&E system. However, according to Motingoe (2012), owing to project circumstances and the unique features of projects, M&E systems must be developed on a case-by-case basis. While professing the ten-step approach to designing an M&E system, Gorgens and Kusek (2009) further indicate that significant strategies and activities must be documented and grouped logically as well as finalized in an appropriate sequence. The proposed ten steps by Kusek and Rist (2004: 25) in designing an M&E system is summarized below and illustrated in Figure 3.5.

  • 1 Conducting a readiness assessment;
  • 2 Agreeing on outcomes to monitor and evaluate;
  • 3 Selecting key indicators to monitor outcomes;

Selecting Key Planning for

Conducting a Readiness Assessment

Indicators to Improvement—

Monitor Selecting Results The Role of Outcomes Targets Evaluations

Using Findings

Agreeing on Baseline Data

Outcomes to on Indicators—

Monitor and Where Are We

Evaluate Today?

Monitoring for Results

Reporting Findings

Sustaining the M&E System within the


Figure 3.5 Steps in designing, building and sustaining a results-based M&E system.

Source: Kusek and Rist, 2004

  • 4 Determining a baseline survey of indicators - where are we today?
  • 5 Planning for improvement - selecting results targets;
  • 6 Monitoring for results;
  • 7 Defining the role of evaluation;
  • 8 Reporting findings;
  • 9 Using findings; and
  • 10 Sustaining the M&E system within the organization.

Figure 3.6 presents an illustrative summary of how an M&E system is designed. Even though it has been presented in a linear or sequential format, it does not rep-resent the same during its implementation (Motingoe, 2012). According to Kusek and Rist (2004), it may be necessary to work back and forth and not necessarily in a strict sequence to ensure systems are robust and effective. A combination or expansion of some of the steps outlined in the Kusek and Rist model may be nee-essary for individual projects, depending on the purpose and utility of the M&E system. M&E systems, however, have been criticized for generating information that is delivered and received late and for not answering the right questions. They are also seen to be expensive to implement (Motingoe, 2012). Guijt and Woodhill (2002) also outlined four steps in an M&E process and detailed how it is linked to the project strategy and operations. These steps are illustrated in Figure 3.6 and involve developing the M&E system, gathering and managing information, reflecting critically to improve actions and communicating and reporting results.

The M&E process and how it links to the project strategy and operations

Figure 3.6 The M&E process and how it links to the project strategy and operations.

Source: Guijt and Woodhill, 2002

Components of a monitoring and evaluation system

M&E systems are broken down into interrelated and interconnected components to allow special attention to be provided by the project M&E team. This will ensure that the M&E system can collect and analyze the data, report the findings and take decisions for improvements. Several components of an M&E system are identified in the literature. While He et al. (2012) demonstrate two complementary parts of an M&E system, a six-component system has been professed by the FAO and includes a clear statement of measurable objectives for the project and its components; a structured set of indicators covering project inputs, process, outputs, outcomes, impact and exogenous factors; mechanisms for data collection with a capacity to monitor progress over time and baselines; a method to compare progress and achievements against targets; appropriate building on baselines and data collection with an evaluation framework and methodology capable of establishing causation; clear mechanisms for reporting and using M&E results in decision-making; and, finally, sustainable organizational arrangements for data collection, management, analysis and reporting.

Similarly, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG, 2013) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) describes four components of an M&E system. They are outlined as the monitoring of inputs and activities, the monitoring of outputs and outcomes, monitoring of risk assumptions and, finally, evaluation of the entire process (IEG, 2013). Gorgens and Kusek (2009) and the UNAIDS (2009) have both outlined twelve components of an M&E system. It is suggested by Mtshali (2015) that the twelve components are a conglomeration of many other components discussed by other scholars. The twelve components of the M&E system are further categorized into three: the first six components are categorized as “people, partnering and planning” (outermost components), the second category comprises components seven to eleven which are attributed to “collecting, capturing and verifying data” (middle component) and the third category relates to “using data for decision-making” which refers to the twelfth component of the M&E system found at the core/centre of Figure 3.5 (Mtshali, 2015). The three categories of M&E components are discussed and illustrated in Figure 3.7.

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