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Looking for experiences: Interdependence of Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation

Dear Members,

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes can be among the most effective ways to foster learning . Unfortunately, because  M&E is most usually used for accountability, learning has not been established as a primary focus of M&E systems. 

I have to participate in a panel discussion on inter-dependence of Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation. I need your help. If you have experiences and inputs please would you share. I will acknowledge your contribution in my presentation and share back what I learned. Please share by 14th April.

Looking forward to learning from your experience.

Thanks

Rituu

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Replies to This Discussion

Learning across sectors is so important. Thanks for sharing your val

Thnx Rittu

I learnt a lot 

Minal

Dear Rituu & all members,

This is really a very good discussion. I was also part of a M&E learning exercise led by Oxfam India on reducing social acceptance to violence against women. Really when we used the qualitative tools such as empowerment matrix to see the change in the lives of women, we could learn a lot more than that,

Thanks once again for spearheading this discussion.

Bye, lots love

Rukmini 

Response from Romeo B. Santos, Ph D on MandENEWS Yahoo group

Hi Rituu,

Attached are documents [ppt and abstract] of my presentation at the 2nd International Conference for Evaluating Climate Change [CC] and Development held at Washington DC last year. The materials focused on CC but I believe the argument applies to evaluation-learning nexus in general. I hope these can help you. 
Attachment 1
Attachment 2
 
all the best,
romm
Romeo B. Santos, Ph D
Professor [Project Mgt & Econ]
University of the Philippines Diliman
 
Executive Director
WorkLand M&E Institute, Inc. (WorkLand M&E)
Attachments:

Response from Linkedin group Monitoring and Evaluation Professionals

Anca Simion, Senior Counselor

The strongest link between learning and evaluation should take place within the expost evaluation of an intervanetion, considering that the latter is focused on lessons learned and it is expected to lead to recommendations. Another possible link between learning and monitoring comes from the fact that monitoring has to take place on regular bases, has to collect data and this would indicate a possible failure, where evaluation comes into and checks what the issue. Thus, while evaluation is mainly a conclusion based process, it is linked to monitoring because data failures are detected by monitoring.

Response from Linkedin group Monitoring and Evaluation Professionals

Joseph Laurence Peñas, MPA

Joseph Laurence

Joseph Laurence Peñas, MPA

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Top Contributor

Hello Rituu,

Pending my online membership request at the gendereval.ning.com, let me share my thoughts on the interdependence of monitoring, evaluation and learning.

Having been into mainstream development work for 11 years now, the very moment I found out that M&E as the best vantage point to manage and measure development made me really interested to know more about it and specialize in this field. With a fascinating overview of development through M&E, M&E itself showed me how this elusive term called 'development' unfolds right before my "unaided" senses. I say "unaided" because M&E enabled me to see and experience development through its indispensable tools such as the Logframe, results framework, MfDR, etc., not to forget those performance and results indicators.

Indeed, having the skills to design these tools to see and experience development can not be done overnight. But with patience and dedication to really see and experience development, no matter how long it takes or perhaps the longer it takes, the more I become interested to hone those skills. For what reason? I say it's not reason but passion to learn about development. Thus, M&E is more than just a set of tools but a powerful lens that can capture development for one to see and experience it. And the more I see and experience development, the more I learn from it.

So what do I get from seeing and experiencing development and learning from it through M&E? M&E exposes me to the endless possibilities of crafting development propositions, development strategies, development lessons, and gathering evidences of development. That when you combine them altogether, rigorously test them and convince development experts regarding their general applicability and practically in the same instances over time, possibly a Development Theory is born.

Which is why as M&E Specialist, I would always remind project managers to seize the opportunity to document the development project management process using our M&E tools. Beyond donor requests and requirements, these M&E tools are the very same tools we need to gather evidences how a particular development intervention made 'development' to manifest. Otherwise, we were just wasting time and that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture 'development' is totally lost. As you may be well aware of, every development pathway is unique. Social preferences change over time, country policies are created and amended every now and then, etc. That if we do not capture these unique moments now using M&E, how do we contribute to the long-term development theory-building process? How do we share development lessons of today so that future development workers won't do the same shameful mistakes again and again? After all, valuable lessons are learned the hard way. Worst i if we do not learn those lessons despite going through the hard way.

More than what M&E does for me as a development worker is my intention to make it more effective as lens to view development. I'm very glad that M&E given its documentation practice, I am able to study the same M&E tools that I inherited from past and present M&E practitioners. More than the fact that times have changed, development challenges have become more and ever challenging than before. Thus, the need for M&E innovations. This is my own professional way of making sure that I give back to M&E whatever it has taught me and exposed to me so that we can better see and experience development, measure and manage development and make development happen sooner than before especially to those who badly need development.

Needless to say, M&E is a development worker's indispensable learning buddy.

Again, good luck to your presentation!

Greetings, unfortunately I don't think there is much connection in reality, although on paper these often go together. I am a big proponent of M before E, especially with regards to gender issues. If no effort is made to include indicators with sex-disaggregation and gender-sensitive indicators in routine monitoring, playing catch up at the evaluation stage rarely produces results that would have been possible if an effort was made during monitoring. The L is an issue for both M and E: data use of routine monitoring data is often weak, especially in donor-driven programs, learning is half a step ahead of data use, and I would like it more to evaluation. Hope this helps

I agree with what Svetlana is saying, especially about the importance of M in order to do E and L well.  I also think that since monitoring data is frequently collected by the program implementers and then used by them in reports to donors there could be some incentives to focus on the positive trends in the monitoring data.   I would like to know how internal evaluation offices deal with this issue.

Hi Svetlana, 

I absolutely agree monitoring is key to good quality evaluation. Of course in gender and equity context this is even more so. The question is then how to encourage effective monitoring? I was supporting an organisation on monitoring and reporting for a project where gender was key. There was huge resistance by grassroot level staff to collect data particularly gender disaggregated data. They said why should we spend so much time on this. I realised because monitoring was just a task for them to report to the donor. They were not learning from it. It was a burden. But when we went through the monitoring framework and discussed together I got this feedback.  They realised the importance of it and said that they would have regular reflection sessions after sending the quarterly monitoring report to learn from it and improve their project. Anthony in this discussion has shared a very good example from his own organisation. 

Thanks a lot for your response. I am happy to learn from you. I worked a bit in the Russian region and have a dear Russian friend with the same name as yours:-)

Warmly,

Rituu

Ganga Sekhar, Program Coordinator, Volunteers for Social Justice, Punjab ( inputs over email)


Monitoring and Evaluation - My thoughts on working on the project to eradicate bonded labour in Brick Kilns of Punjab coordinated by Anti Slavery International
The nature of the brick kiln program in Punjab is complex and these complexities make monitoring and evaluation a challenge. The beneficiaries of the program belong to the lowest strata of society - both socially and economically having their roots in the caste system. While the bonded keepers are politically influential, economically well off and socially dominant due to their higher caste status. The achievement of the project goal directly depends of reversing of this social order and bringing both the perpetrator and victims on an equal footing. Changing governments at the center and state, elections, the whimsical nature of the brick kiln owners lobby and weather conditions are factors that directly affect the implementation of the program. Not only do we have no control over these factors but also it is difficult to predict their course and occurrence. While the long term goal of the project remains constant, short term goals and strategies not only change but evolve directly during the process of achieving these long term goals. If the program demands the achievement of certain tasks and activities which were thought to be the way forward at the beginning of the program, then the impact of the program is bound to be low.
For instance, the brick kiln program which began in September 2012, began when the brick kiln owners association went on strike and closed down their brick kilns. While the workers are in a starving condition, the program requirements of achieving certain entitlements such as Bank Account, Job Card etc holds no relevance. But this by no means is a hindrance towards achieving the final goal. Taking advantage of the circumstances, VSJ filed a petition of 4000 brick kiln workers to claim rights against illegal closure of brick kilns. This lead to a massive one-of-its-kind campaign culminating in NHRC taking due note of the situation in Punjab brick kilns and also lead to a meeting with the Chairperson of NHRC. This activity was neither a program requirement nor an indicator against a target. 
Challenges are not a hurdle in a program with a team of persons with strong understanding and commitment but only an opportunity that reveals another aspect of the program to be explored and taken advantage of. 
In evaluating the effectiveness of a program, to use the indicators set during the beginning of the program, may fail to capture the true essence of the work and may even result in a negative outcome evaluation. The indicators must be open ended with opportunity to explore strategies that take advantage of the current socio-economic-political waves but with a firm understanding of how the strategies strengthen the path to achieve the goal of the program.  
In such circumstances monitoring must be instantaneous, current and spontaneous. This involves working closely with the team with seamless communication within the team to gather the field realities for strategic planning of activities. The trick is to be ready for change anytime and at any moment, even if it is in the middle of a previously planned program. Change of plans and strategies are by no means a change of mind. This is where training for the team to re-trace and recall the goals of the program vis a vis the program activities, will be of great support. Dialogue - formally and informally - with the stake holders and the implementing team is the best means to monitor the program keeping in mind that largely the beneficiaries and the implementing team have very limited reading and writing skills. 
Defined performas for data collection are good only for accountability and this can be done at the end of each month or so. Whereas monitoring is a constant process for VSJ with no breaks and specified time lines. 
Best wishes,
Ganga

Please see this blog on learn in monitoring and evaluation which captures discussion amongst M&E professionals from 18 countries on the subject http://gendereval.ning.com/profiles/blogs/learning-monitoring-and-e...

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