Don’t be fooled.
The fact that the terms Monitoring and Evaluation often go together and are called “M&E” is somewhat misleading.
When governments or development organisations 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.
It is true that Monitoring & Evaluation frequently share similar tools and methods. While they are interrelated, Monitoring & Evaluation are clearly separate activities.
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 how fast you go, how much petrol you have left, or maybe if one of the car’s doors has been left open.
In governments and development organisations, 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 organisation. 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.
…and what is evaluation?
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 organisation. Having independent, external evaluators should ensure 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 an impact? What real difference has a programme, a policy or a service made for beneficiaries?
- Is it sustainable? Will positive changes continue once funding is cut?
That is why evaluations tend to be broader in scope than monitoring.
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