5 Steps to designing an Effective Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) System

We introduced Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and discussed its significance to NGOs. In this article, we discuss the 10 steps to designing an M&E system. Since the development of a Monitoring & Evaluation system is a participatory exercise, consulting employees at different ranks of the organization who are expected to use or maintain the new M&E system is vital. This might include employees at head offices or secretariats, local or country offices, and employees at the project level.


Step 1: Determine the extent and intent

The first step involves picking out the evaluation audience and the objective of the M&E system. M&E objectives include assisting management and decision-making, accountability, learning, and stakeholder engagement. Will the M&E focus mostly on learning as compared to accountability? If so, then the designing of the M&E system would be to enhance current reflection for ongoing program improvement. If the focus is more on accountability, then the M&E system could conduct data collection and analysis more meticulously and in a way that coincides with the reporting calendar of the evaluation audience.

Significantly, the purpose and scope of Monitoring &Evaluation should be defined prior, to allow for the designing of an appropriate M&E system. If your evaluation audience is eager to see the quantitative results of RCTs (Randomised Controlled Trials) twice annually, it would be impractical to have an M&E system that collects mostly qualitative data once a year. Be in complete understanding with the evaluation audience.

Step 2: Identify the evaluation questions

Evaluation questions should be defined up-front and in alliance with the primary audience and other investors to whom you aim to report. Evaluation questions bend limitlessly to ask rational questions such as whether or not the intervention is beneficial or if it could have been accomplished differently.

Step 3: Define the monitoring questions

For an evaluation question like “What worked and what did not?” you may have various monitoring questions like;

  • Did the workshop increase knowledge on the efficiency of energy in the home?
  • Did the attendees have any challenges with the training materials?

The monitoring questions will theoretically be answered through the collection of qualitative and quantitative data. It is important to think about the monitoring and evaluation questions before you start collecting data, to avoid collecting data just for the sake of it. It might not provide any useful information to the program.

Step 4: Establish the indicators and sources of data

Here you identify the information that is required to answer your monitoring questions and where it will come from or its source. Considering data collection with regard to the type of data and any type of research design is important. Data could be from primary sources, such as from the participants themselves, or secondary sources such as existing literature. In that case, you can decide on the most applicable method of collecting the data from each data source.

Step 5: Identify the staff responsible for data collection, storage, reporting, budget, and timelines

It is appropriate to allocate roles for the collection and reporting of data to make clear everyone’s responsibilities. Monitoring data may be collected routinely over short intervals, or less frequently, such as bi-annually or annually. The timing of internal and external evaluations should also be noted. It is also important to list down any requirements that are needed in collecting the data. Having a rough idea of the cost accompanying monitoring is recommended, as the ideas to collect a lot of data might be great, only to find out that the information is very expensive. In addition to that, it is good to determine the means of storing the collected data. An M&E database such as a simple Excel file or LogAlto, a comprehensive M&E software should be available for use by all project staff.

Step 6: Identify data evaluation roles and reporting

In most programs, there will be an internal and an external evaluation. For an evaluation to be deemed useful, the findings should be presented in an audience-appropriate format. As part of the M&E system, a Marketing and Dissemination Strategy should be designed for the reporting of evaluation results.

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