Throughout my career as a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) practitioner, I have come across many managers who were simply confounded by M&E jargons. What is an activity versus an input? How is an outcome different from an output? So confusing, daunting and and sometimes downright scary! However, it does not have to be this way.
During my workshops, I found an effective and fun way to explain basic M&E concepts to non-technical persons.It uses the analogy of a person on the beach.
Just imagine someone walking along the beach and thinking it would be a good idea to throw a rock in the water.
1. Choosing the Rock (Input)
He has a bed of rocks at his disposal and it is matter of choosing the right rock for the effect he wants. Should he choose the big rock, the small rock? Or all of them? The rocks represent the financial, human, physical and material resources that are available to the organisation. These are the INPUTS that would be fed into a given programme or project.
2. Throwing the Rock (Activity)
He makes the decision to throw all the rocks in the sea. After all, the more rocks he throws, the more effects he will see on the sea. The act of throwing the rocks represents the ACTIVITIES of a programme. Activities are the actions taken within the programme. For example, conducting trainings, drafting policy papers, organising meetings etc.
3. The Splash (Output)
Once the rock hits the water, it makes a splash. The splash is the immediate effect of the activity of throwing the rock. In other words, the splash represents the OUTPUTS and is the immediate result of the completion of programme activities. Outputs are the products and/or services which results from the completion of activities. For example, as a result of conducting trainings in Sexual Reproductive Health, an immediate result is that persons now have increased knowledge in this area.
4. The Ripple (Outcome)
The initial splash (output) creates a ripple effect on the water. The ripple represents OUTCOMES. These are the short-term and medium term effects of the outputs. In other words, “What changes occur due to the output?” For example, as a result of persons have an increased knowledge of their Sexual Reproductive Health (output), we expect a behavioural change. Persons will now engage in safer sex practises. This is the outcome.
5. The Horizon (Goal/Desired or Intended Impact/Final Outcome/Objective)
The horizon represents the long term GOALS/IMPACT/OBJECTIVE or the lasting changes that we hope to achieve by the programme’s intervention. It is the result of all the activities, outputs and outcomes that achieves the goal.
For example, the programme commits its human and financial resources (inputs) to carry out trainings and marketing campaigns on sexual reproductive health (activities) that will lead to increased knowledge in this area (output). This will result in people practising safer sex (outcome) which will lead to a healthier population with reduced HIV/AIDS and STD rates (Goal/Impact). This is an overly simplistic example, but it does illustrate the point well.
In the Logical Framework, the different steps are ordered sequentially: activities feed into outputs, which lead to outcomes, which achieve the overall goals. Please see the illustration below.
Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) does not have to be mundane or scary. There are creative ways to present the technical jargons and to make the process come alive in your organisation.
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