Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a process that helps improve performance and achieve results. Its goal is to improve current and future management of outputs, outcomes and impact. It is mainly used to assess the performance of projects, institutions and programs set up by governments, international organisations and NGOs. It establishes links between the past, present and future actions.
Monitoring and evaluation processes can be managed by the donors financing the assessed activities, by an independent branch of the implementing organization, by the project managers or implementing team themselves and/or by a private company. The credibility and objectivity of monitoring and evaluation reports depend very much on the independence of the evaluators. Their expertise and independence is of major importance for the process to be successful.
Many international organizations such as the United Nations, USAID, the World Bank group and the Organization of American States have been utilizing this process for many years. The process is also growing in popularity in the developing countries where the governments have created their own national M&E systems to assess the development projects, the resource management and the government activities or administration. The developed countries are using this process to assess their own development and cooperation agencies.
The M&E is separated into two distinguished categories: evaluation and monitoring. An evaluation is a systematic and objective examination concerning the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and impact of activities in the light of specified objectives. The idea in evaluating projects is to isolate errors in order to avoid repeating them and to underline and promote the successful mechanisms for current and future projects.
An important goal of evaluation is to provide recommendations and lessons to the project managers and implementation teams that have worked on the projects and for the ones that will implement and work on similar projects.
Evaluations are also indirectly a means to report to the donor about the activities implemented. It is a means to verify that the donated funds are being well managed and transparently spent. The evaluators are supposed to check and analyse the budget lines and to report the findings in their work. Monitoring and Evaluation is also useful in the Facilities [Hospitals], it enables the donors such as WHO,UNICEF to know whether the funds provided are well utilised in purchasing drugs and also equipments in the Hospitals.
Monitoring is a continuous assessment that aims at providing all stakeholders with early detailed information on the progress or delay of the ongoing assessed activities. It is an oversight of the activity's implementation stage. Its purpose is to determine if the outputs, deliveries and schedules planned have been reached so that action can be taken to correct the deficiencies as quickly as possible.
Good planning, combined with effective monitoring and evaluation, can play a major role in enhancing the effectiveness of development programs and projects. Good planning helps focus on the results that matter, while monitoring and evaluation help us learn from past successes and challenges and inform decision making so that current and future initiatives are better able to improve people's lives and expand their choices.
Differences between monitoring and evaluation
The common ground for monitoring and evaluation is that they are both management tools. For monitoring, data and information collection for tracking progress according to the terms of reference is gathered periodically which is not the case in evaluations for which the data and information collection is happening during or in view of the evaluation. The monitoring is a short term assessment and does not take into consideration the outcomes and impact unlike the evaluation process which also assesses the outcomes and sometime longer term impact. This impact assessment occurs sometimes after the end of a project, even though it is rare because of its cost and of the difficulty to determine whether the project is responsible of the observed results. Evaluation is a systematic and objective examination which is conducted on monthly, yearly basis, unlike Monitoring which is continuous assessment providing stakeholders with early information. Monitoring checks on all the activities on the last[implementation stage] unlike Evaluation which entails information on whethere the donated funds are well managed and that they are transparently spent.
Although evaluations are often retrospective, their purpose is essentially forward looking. Evaluation applies the lessons and recommendations to decisions about current and future programmes. Evaluations can also be used to promote new projects, get support from governments, raise funds from public or private institutions and inform the general public on the different activities.
It is also very important as monitoring team give the recommendation to the school visited (e.g. K.H.S and G.S.G).
The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in February 2005 and the follow-up meeting in Accra underlined the importance of the evaluation process and of the ownership of its conduct by the projects' hosting countries. Many developing countries now have M&E systems and the tendency is growing.
The credibility of findings and assessments depends to a large extent on the manner in which monitoring and evaluation is conducted. To assess performance, it is necessary to select, before the implementation of the project, indicators which will permit to rate the targeted outputs and outcomes. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an outcome indicator has two components: the baseline which is the situation before the programme or project begins, and the target which is the expected situation at the end of the project. An output indicator that does not have any baseline as the purpose of the output is to introduce something that does not exist yet.
In the United Nations
The most important agencies of the United Nations have a monitoring and evaluation unit. All these agencies are supposed to follow the common standards of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG). These norms concern the Institutional framework and management of the evaluation function, the competencies and ethics, and the way to conduct evaluations and present reports (design, process, team selection, implementation, reporting and follow up). This group also provides guidelines and relevant documentation to all evaluation organs being part of the United Nations or not.
Most agencies implementing projects and programmes, even if following the common UNEG standards, have their own handbook and guidelines on how to conduct M&E. Indeed, the UN agencies have different specialisations and have different needs and ways of approaching M&E. The M&E branches of every UN agency are monitored and rated by the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations.
- United Nations development programme evaluation office - Handbook on Monitoring and Evaluating for Results. http://web.undp.org/evaluation/documents/handbook/me-handbook.pdf
- A UNICEF Guide for Monitoring and Evaluation - Making a Difference. http://library.cphs.chula.ac.th/Ebooks/ReproductiveHealth/A%20UNICEF%20Guide%20for%20Monitoring%20and%20Evaluation_Making%20a%20Difference.pdf
- Center for Global Development. US Spending in Haiti: The Need for Greater Transparency and Accountability. http://www.cgdev.org/doc/full_text/CGDBriefs/1426965/US-Spending-in-Haiti-The-Need-for-Greater-Transparency-and-Accountability.html
- "Why is it important to strengthen Civil Society's evaluation capacity? | MY M&E". mymande.org. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
- United Nations Development Programme evaluation office - Handbook on Monitoring and Evaluating for Results. Prince Conway II; a M&E specialist from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare was one of the those who achieved greatly in the health sector moving the Malaria data from 60% below base line to 85% above target. http://web.undp.org/evaluation/documents/handbook/me-handbook.pdf
- United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG). "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2014-05-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- United Nations Joint Inspection Unit. https://www.unjiu.org/