| Boiling Point No. 23 - December 1990 |
bv Ian Grant ITDG
Have you ever seen an evaluation report on a monitoring and evaluation programme? If not, why not?
It seems to be assumed that M & E exercises are self justifying unlike other expensive programmes which, quite rightly, require thorough justification before they are approved and implemented. I suppose that by the time a technical assistance programme is completed, its final report digested and then the M & E report is finalized, most people have lost interest in the subject and would certainly not want to evaluate the evaluation exercise. Nevertheless, the question remains, was it worthwhile?
M & E programmes need to be carefully worked out and budgeted at the inception of T A programmes. Most important their aims, purposes and how they will be used should be clearly stated and agreed with the people whom the TA will assist as well as the funders and executing agency.
Regular monitoring within the programme's life has an obvious justification, that is to check the success of the work done and to determine which lines of activity should be expanded and which should be changed, reduced or abandoned. The statistical and technical components to be monitored will have been planned in advance and the potential social and personal benefits and undesirable effects should be discussed between the programme staff and the local people they are working with.
If the programme is to be terminated at a planned date, it is most likely that the programme teams will be aware of its successes and failures without a formal and costly final evaluation and these should be fully reflected in their periodical and final reports. The local people who will continue the work will probably prefer to do their own informal evaluation, uninfluenced by the departing team of expatriates or their agency headquarters.
If the programme is being considered for extension or a second phase, then a more formal evaluation may be needed as part of the justification for the extension. In either case, the executing agency may like to have an evaluation report to show to their funders but if the
funders are seriously concerned they will probably prefer to pay an independent specialist to prepare it or will have their own evaluations. They should have specified from the beginning what monitoring was to be done.
This is not to suggest that evaluation is unnecessary or not worth while, rather that, because of the time, money and effort involved, its likely costs and benefits should receive a critical examination at the outset. Its aims, plans and expectations should be clearly specified and all parties to the programme should agree that it is needed rather than have it imposed from outside.
An evaluation of M & E exercises in general for 3rd World, NGO, TA programmes would help programme planners to decide what M & E needs to be built into their plans, although one wonders who would do such a survey without bias towards an activity which provides work for themselves or their profession. Theoretical studies and reports are indispensable to our work but should be kept to the minimum and should always be thoroughly questioned and justified in the interests of the people we are trying to help.
Gandhiniketan Ashram, Tamil Nadu, India