Development professionals work to make positive change happen through their programs and initiatives. However, it is very hard for them to measure their projects’ impact and evaluate how efficient they are. The best development projects are identified by their impact and their efficiency, and the best way to measure these is through a good project monitoring and evaluation system.
In the past, information about a project’s impact would be collected through a laborious exercise involving surveyors and reams of paper. Using pen and paper surveys for project monitoring and evaluation led to inaccuracy and came at a high premium in terms of money, time, and effort. Thankfully, with developments in technology, this process has become digital. This has led to increased efficiency and lowered the costs of having a good project monitoring and evaluation framework.
Now, development programs and projects are expected to have a robust M&E system in place. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, for example, have a rigorous multi-level project monitoring and evaluation system. The organization, further, pointed out that the international community could not afford a lag in measuring progress in development.
M&E is, at its simplest, a process to measure the performance and results of a project.
Ignoring the need for a robust project monitoring and evaluation system is detrimental to your program and its prospects for funding. A good M&E system promotes effective policy changes and the accountability of stakeholders.
Designing a good project monitoring and evaluation plan, while essential and vital, can be complicated. Thankfully, there are several resources to help you with that. We have gone through a lot of guides and these are the best project monitoring and evaluation guides that we could find, written by some of the most reputed organizations in the development space. Whether you’re curious about the basics (like what monitoring and evaluation is), attempting to determine the importance of project monitoring and evaluation in general, or working to identify relevant indicators, these guides are a fantastic starting point.
1. UNDP — “Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results”, 2009
While primarily designed for UNDP staff, the handbook acts as a reference guide that integrates planning, monitoring, and evaluation for effective program design. With modules on conceptualizing and creating a project monitoring and evaluation plan, monitoring for results, and measuring impact, it provides prescriptive content on what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. Report formats and templates complete what is an excellent companion across the full cycle of the development program.
- Extremely comprehensive
- Excellent reference guide
- Designed more as a reference point than a ‘how to’ resource
- Lacks references to recent trends like mobile data collection.
Link to the guide:
2. World Bank — “Monitoring & Evaluation: Some Tools, Methods, & Approaches”, 2004
This handbook is a handy companion guide to project monitoring and evaluation, starting from answering basic questions before going on to discuss some basic approaches and evaluation methods. Best looked at as a quick overview of the project monitoring and evaluation field, it is written in a question and answer style that makes it more accessible. By comparing different methods and approaches, it is a convenient starting point in understanding the subject.
- Comparisons of methods includes estimates on costs, skills, and time required
- Convenient section-by-section resources for further reading
- Meant more as an introduction to M&E than a complete companion
- Suitable only for newcomers to M&E
Link to the guide:
3. School of Geography & Environment, Oxford University — “Step by Step Guide to Monitoring and Evaluation”, 2014
If your project concerns energy, sustainable development, or the environment, this step-by-step guide is the resource for you. The methodical and accessible approach it adopts is useful for both experts and amateurs, and it provides forms and templates that help you structure a comprehensive project monitoring and evaluation framework. This is an ideal checklist for the expert and a how-to guide for people new to project monitoring and evaluation. As a bonus, it uses examples and illustrations for increased clarity.
- Step-by-step approach makes it easier to understand and implement complex project monitoring and evaluation systems
- Convenient overview of other resources makes finding supporting literature easy
- Focused mostly on energy and the environment — other studies and projects might miss some methods
- Leans more on specific examples than complete explanations
Link to the guide:
“Step by Step Guide to Monitoring and Evaluation” by Oxford University
4. IFRC — “Project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) guide”, 2011
As a reference guide for International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) personnel, it is ideal for those responsible for project monitoring but also useful for volunteers, donors, and partners involved in a development program. The guide is divided into 3 sections — the first focuses on the conceptual framework for M&E; the second focuses on six key steps for M&E; and further, the appendix provides additional tools, resources, and projects for M&E. With a comprehensive breakdown of the important approaches as well as a checklist approach to the setting up of a monitoring and evaluation framework, this guide works for almost everyone.
- Comprehensive and methodical in its approach, it gives you the information you need at the point that you need it.
- Annexed resources and updated content make for exceptional supporting reading.
- While the information applies across the board, the emphasis is on issues of health
- Lacks an in-depth discussion of data collection methods
Link to the guide:
5. Grosvenor Management Consulting — “DIY M&E: A step-by-step guide to building a monitoring and evaluation framework”
This guide comes with a simple editable M&E framework template, and is a simple handbook to setting up an monitoring and evaluation framework conveniently. It uses a simple example to build on the various steps and milestones for setting up an M&E system, and contains simple tables that compare different approaches, giving pertinent information in an easily understandable fashion. Further, it links to resources on understanding other aspects of a program, including how to communicate project monitoring and evaluation results.
- Simple, convenient, and accessible — this is the best guide for newcomers to the field
- Effective use of an example framework to help the reader to create their own
- Not useful for large projects or programs
- Requires email sign-up for access
Link to the guide:
“DIY M&E: A step-by-step guide to building a monitoring and evaluation framework” by Grosvenor Management Consulting
These guides give you all the information you need to figure out how to design a good project monitoring and evaluation framework. These guides cover understanding the right approach and method for your project, identifying the right kind of data to monitor, and deriving the right conclusions. We hope that these resources will be useful to you and lead to better project monitoring and evaluation of your program.