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‘Monitoring’? ‘Evaluation’? Isn’t that the same anyway?

‘Monitoring’? ‘Evaluation’? Isn’t that the same anyway?

‘Monitoring’? ‘Evaluation’? Isn’t that the same?

Don’t be fooled. 

The fact that the terms Monitoring and Evaluation often goes together and is called “M&E” is somewhat misleading.

It is true that Monitoring & Evaluation frequently share similar tools and methods. While they are interrelated, Monitoring & Evaluation are clearly separate activities.

What is it anyway?

When you hear the term “monitoring”, what comes to mind?

  • Right now, you may actually be looking at a screen that displays the output of a computer – a computer monitor.
  • A geologist monitors the situation after an earth quake

What about “evaluating”?

  • You may evaluate the nutritional pros and cons of tonight’s dinner options.
  • A medical doctor may use tests to evaluate your heart activity.

When governments or development organizations use the term “Monitoring & Evaluation”, however, they mean something very specific: Monitoring & Evaluation is about collecting and analysing data and reporting on findings on how well a programme, a policy, a service or an organisation is performing, and making a judgement about its value.

So no, it’s NOT the same – it’s actually quite different. Monitoring and Evaluations are usually carried out by different people and differ in how often they are carried out.

Ok. So what IS monitoring?

In a nutshell: Monitoring is like the dashboard of your car when you are driving: It tells you have fast you go, how much petrol you have left, or maybe if one of the car’s door has been left open.

In governments and development organizations, monitoring is the regular and systematic collection, analysis, reporting and use of information about programmes, policies or services.

Monitoring is concerned with the performance of a programme, a policy or a service. Unlike an evaluation, it is typically conducted internally. That means monitoring is typically carried out by staff that works inside an organization. And unlike evaluations, it is a continuous process. That means it is carried out non-stop during – and sometimes after – an activity. Monitoring typically supports the management of programmes, policies or services, and helps to manage its risks.

What are evaluations?

Evaluations are like the occasional check-up of your car: Evaluations are a systematic and impartial assessment of expected and achieved accomplishments.

Evaluations take a step back to look – as the term suggests – at the overall value of a programme, a policy or a service. Evaluations are usually conducted externally. That means evaluations are typically carried out by evaluators or specialists with no link to a programme, policy, service or organization. Having independent, external evaluators should insure a more unbiased judgement. Unlike monitoring, an evaluation is not carried out all the time, but is a one-off activity. Typically, evaluations are carried out during or at the end of an activity.

And evaluations are more systematic than monitoring: Here are some typical questions an evaluation attempts to answer:

  • Is a programme, a policy, a service or an organization relevant? Does it suit the priorities and policies of the target group?
  • Is it effective? Does it achieve results?
  • Is it efficient? Does it achieve results at reasonable costs?
  • Does it have impact? What real difference has a programme, a policy or a service made to for beneficiaries?
  • Is it sustainable? Will positive changes continue once funding is cut?

That is why evaluations tend to be broader in scope then monitoring.

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