What is monitoring and evaluation?

Monitoring is the systematic collection, analysis and use of information from projects and programmes for three basic purposes:

  • learning from the experiences acquired (learning function);
  • accounting internally and externally for the resources used and the results obtained (monitoring function);
  • taking decisions (steering function) (PSO, 2004).

Evaluation is assessing as systematically and objectively as possible an ongoing or completed project, programme or policy. The object is to be able to make statements about their relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. Based on this information, it can be determined whether any changes need to be made at a project, programme or policy level, and if so, what they are. What went well, where is there room for improvement? Evaluation thus has both a learning function - the lessons learned need to be incorporated into future proposals or policy - and a monitoring function - partners and members review the implementation of policy based on objectives and resources mobilised.

Monitoring and evaluation are complementary. During an evaluation, as much use as possible is made of information from previous monitoring. In contrast to monitoring, where emphasis is on the process and results, evaluation is used to provide insight into the relationships between results (for example, the strengthened capacity of an organisation), effects (for example, improved services / products) and impact (for example, improved living conditions for the ultimate target group).

Three reasons

To summarise, M&E can be used for three reasons:

  • steering: steering and adjusting current programmes and projects;
  • learning: learning more about what works and what does not;
  • monitoring: accounting for the resources used in the light of objectives formulated in advance and results achieved.

'Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of development activities provide government officials, development managers, and civil society with better means for learning from past experience, improving service delivery, planning and allocating resources, and demonstrating results as part of accountability to key stakeholders. Within the development community there is a strong focus on results - this helps explain the growing interest in M&E.' (World Bank, 2004, Monitoring & Evaluation, Some tools & approaches)

'Monitoring means comparing actual progress in activities and results to the objectives formulated in advance. Generally this will give you little more than a broad indication of whether these objectives were achieved.' (War Child, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, 2006).