Timelines, logistics, mechanics, and budgets—these are some of the concepts that come to mind when one mentions project planning and implementation. But there is another one—monitoring and evaluation (M&E)—that is very important and unfortunately, often overlooked.
Some may misconstrue M&E as being synonymous with project auditing, but they’re actually two different processes with differing points of focus. “[M&E] doesn’t say if what you’re doing is wrong… or what sanctions you should be given because you’re doing something wrong,” said Lemuel Segui, former monitoring and evaluation officer at the Philippine Development Foundation, during QBO’s TBI 4.0 Virtual 4.0 Conference held last April 1.
“M&E is actually allied with planning and implementing because [it tells] you, “These are the lessons that we saw on-ground, and these are the challenges that we need to address for you to make more informed decisions and improve your performance.”
On planning and implementing
M&E may be jointly defined as a “continuous management function” that assesses if progress is being made, spots bottlenecks in implementation, and highlights whether there are any unintended effects from a project or program. While the two processes that comprise its name more or less have the same objective, the key difference is that monitoring is done internally while the latter is conducted by a separate body.
To help ensure effective results management, there are a number of factors that an organization must finalize. For one, an organization must set how often they will conduct M&E, which depends on the project cycle and success indicators that are being measured.
An organization must also know what system they will use. There are a number to choose from, such as results-based management (RBM), which emphasizes improved performance and tangible, demonstrable results.
However, it doesn’t stop with crafting and implementing the plan. There are three principles that must be observed while doing so:
- Ownership, or understanding the purpose of the project and going beyond simple compliance of the requirements;
- Encouragement of stakeholders to participate actively in the entire process; and
- A focus on results, or emphasis on achieving results instead of rigidly following activities as planned.
“M&E is actually an art and a science. There is a system, a scientific process… But the art part is how you implement the system,” said Segui.
Weaving stories from systems
If implemented well, M&E can bring several kinds of benefits. On a technical level, it can help an organization make informed decisions, improve their performance, and meet their goals. Internally, it gives them more confidence in making decisions. But perhaps one of its most fascinating benefits is that it brings out beautiful stories that can increase engagement among your stakeholders.
“People would always say that [M&E is] very scientific, and is sometimes even perceived as a boring aspect of implementation. But what we don’t [see] is the heart of a story that you’re making,” said Segui.
“For example, if your indicator [of success as an incubation program] is the number of startups that you’ve incubated, it doesn’t tell you the kind of effect your intervention had on your beneficiaries. It doesn’t tell you the change that happened to them or how you changed the lives of your beneficiaries through your initiatives. So this is something that’s unique with M&E: you see the effects through its proper implementation.”