Helpful guides & resources on
monitoring & evaluation (M&E)

June 3, 2021

For any development project to be successful, it must have a robust monitoring and evaluation system in place. However, the efficacy of the monitoring and evaluation system depends on many factors, including the timing of the assessment, the appropriate choice of tools and methodologies, availability of resources, skills and capacity within the team, proper mechanism for data collection and analysis, just to name a few. 

Our team at TolaData has put together this list of helpful resources for different stages of the project cycle to guide you through your entire M&E journey. These resources will help you choose the right approach, tools and methodologies, build knowledge and capacity in M&E and enable you to plan and design M&E systems and plans that are effective and strategic. 

The collection of resources and guides listed in this blog post are beneficial for organisations, M&E practitioners or individuals who are interested in learning more about M&E and are committed to understanding and enhancing the outcomes and impacts of their development projects. 

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) resources for beginners

Guiding principles for evaluators by the American Evaluation Association is a must-have resource for anyone in the sector. This is intended as a guide to the professional ethical conduct of evaluators. The five Principles listed in the guide address systematic inquiry, competence, integrity, respect for people, and common good and equity. The Principles govern the behaviour of evaluators in all stages of the evaluation from the initial discussion of focus and purpose, through design, implementation, reporting, and ultimately the use of the evaluation.

Guidelines for project and programme evaluations by the Austrian Development Agency is an excellent resource for those who are new to M&E and would like to learn the basics. The guide was intended for projects or programs supported by ADC but its content is relevant for many in the sector. It introduces M&E and explains the purpose of evaluation while defining the international evaluation principles and standards and key M&E terminologies. Additionally, it includes helpful checklists and examples of M&E reports, data collection planning worksheets and more. 

The roles of monitoring and evaluation in projects by FAO provides clear and concise definitions of both monitoring and evaluation, their key roles and purposes, tools, limitations, tips on how to write monitoring and evaluation reports and more. 

10 steps to successful M&E by TolaData is a short article that lays out the top ten tips from experts to help you navigate the M&E path successfully. Topics include, how to determine a favourable time to incorporate M&E into your project, how to choose the right M&E tools and methodologies, the crucial role of indicators and more.

Glossary of key terms in evaluation and results based management by OECD has a list of the most common terms used in M&E and their definitions in English, French and Spanish.

Resources to support your monitoring and evaluation (M&E) planning and implementation

Project/programme monitoring and evaluation (M&E) guide by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) is a great resource that covers the A-Z of M&E. It explains the general M&E concepts and considerations and outlines the six key interconnected steps of an M&E system in detail. The guide also includes a list of common M&E terminologies and their definitions, list of factors affecting the quality of M&E information, a checklist for the six key M&E steps, key data collection methods and tools and helpful templates for M&E stakeholder assessment, M&E activity planning and more.

Evaluation flashcards by Michael Quinn Patton introduces the core evaluation concepts that every evaluator must know, including, evaluation questions, M&E frameworks, standards, methods, types of evaluation and more.

A step-by-step guide to monitoring and evaluation by the University of Oxford is one of our favorite go-to resources. It explains M&E in an easy to understand manner and provides tips and guidance for every step of the M&E process – from determining which projects to monitor, whom to involve, how to clarify your aims, objectives, activities and pathways to change to identify the information you need to collect and how to collect, analyze and utilize them and more. Plus, it includes a range of examples, templates and resources that you can use and adapt into your own projects.

Monitoring and evaluation plan for NGOs by TolaData articulates the key components and important steps in developing a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan and guides you through each step of the process. The best part about this guide is, it’s written in a very simple language and it’s short and easy to follow. 

The nuts and bolts of monitoring and evaluation systems by the World Bank group synthesizes existing knowledge about M&E systems and provides it in a highly succinct, readily understandable, and credible manner. Although it was intended for policymakers, it is relevant for anyone working in M&E.

Designing evaluations is a comprehensive guide from the United States Government Accountability Office. If you need help designing an M&E system or a plan then this guide is for you. It walks you through the key steps in designing an evaluation  – from defining the evaluation scope, selecting an evaluation design, determining the key components of an evaluation design to determining the criteria for a good evaluation design and more.

Need help formulating good evaluation questions?

Evaluation questions checklist for program evaluation by Lori Wingate and Daniela Schroeter is an excellent resource. The purpose of this checklist is to help evaluators in developing high-quality and appropriate evaluation questions and in assessing the quality of existing questions. It identifies characteristics of good evaluation questions, based on the relevant literature and the authors’ own experiences with evaluation design, implementation, and use.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) guides and toolkits for data collection

Toolkit for monitoring and evaluation data collection by Cardno (2017), Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Support Unit outlines a set of ‘Guiding Principles’ to consider when collecting monitoring and evaluation data and provides information, resources, templates and a range of data collection tools for development professionals to consider, use and adapt when planning for and collecting  both ‘routine monitoring data’ and ‘periodic internal evaluation data.’ It does not, however, provide guidance for undertaking larger-scale end of program evaluations or for ‘externally led evaluations.’

Data collection methods and tools for performance monitoring by USAID covers the basics of data collection for performance monitoring, including, primary and secondary types of data sources, common data collection methods, the process of identifying appropriate data collection tools and more.

Data collection methods handbook by Measure Evaluation covers 5 modules to guide you through the process of data collection. The modules include data collection strategies, data collection general rules, key issues about measures, quantitative and qualitative data and a toolkit on common data collection approaches. This handbook is quite thorough and provides a comprehensive explanation of each data collection method and approach separately.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) resources and tutorials for data analysis

How to get your dataset ready for analysis is a short blog article by TolaData that provides a list of best practices to guide you and your team to get more out of the data you’ve collected. The article provides tips on laying out your data on spreadsheets, formatting and structuring your data, entering the data into a data set, plus it explains the most common dos and don’ts in preparing your dataset for analysis.

Excel Easy is an excellent guide for those who use excel spreadsheets for data management, consolidation and analysis. Its tutorials on data analysis illustrate the powerful features Excel has to offer to analyze data – from sorting your data to conditional formatting, pivoting tables, creating charts to leveraging an array of tools in Excel such as the ‘Analysis Toolpak’ to ‘What if analysis,’ ‘Solver’ and more.

Resources for data reporting - how best to communicate your M&E findings?

One page reports by Evaluate is a toolkit that provides evaluators with tools, examples, and videos on creating one-page reports that summarize data, findings, or recommendations. The toolkit also includes real-life examples to further support evaluators in creating one-page reports in their own practice.

Data visualization checklist by Stephanie Evergreen & Ann K. Emery is a guide for the development of high-impact data visualizations. Topics covered include tips on how to arrange text, graphical elements, choosing the most appropriate colours, lines etc. for impactful data visualizations.   

Communicating evaluation findings by Simon Hearn at BetterEvaluation summarises some great new tools, methods and tips for communicating your evaluation findings. Plus, he lists some no cost or low-cost tools for data visualisation and reporting.

Additional websites with excellent resources and guides on M&E

BetterEvaluation is an international collaboration to improve the practice and theory of evaluation. They create and curate information, resources, guides and toolkits on choosing and using evaluation methods and processes, including managing evaluations and strengthening evaluation capacity. Plus, if you are interested in attending events, webinars or other programs on M&E then keep an eye on their website or their social media channels. 

INTRAC is a not-for-profit organisation that builds the skills and knowledge of civil society to be more effective in addressing poverty and inequality. They have a wealth of knowledge on M&E and other international development themes and topics and they share them in the form of excellent downloadable guides, books, discussion papers, blog articles and more on their website. 

EvaluATE is the evaluation hub for evaluators, project leaders and staff, grant specialists and anyone working in the M&E sector. It covers all things evaluation. All their resources, webinars, newsletters, blogs, and information on M&E are open access.

Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Checklist Project’s mission is to advance excellence in evaluation by providing high-quality checklists to guide practice. Their checklists are on a diverse range of topics from managing evaluation to applying specific evaluation approaches, managing stakeholders and more.  

Racial Equity Tools have a section on evaluation that is designed to help groups assess, learn from, and document their racial equity work, with special attention to issues of power and privilege in the work, and in M&E.

We hope you found our compilation of guides and resources on M&E helpful. Our goal is to promote a good understanding and successful practice of monitoring and evaluation in international development. 

Didn’t find your go-to M&E guides on the list? Mention them in the comment section below and we’ll be happy to add them to the list.

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