What is Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)?

September 6, 2019

At TolaData, we love getting queries about monitoring and evaluation (M&E) from our clients and followers around the world.

Here’s one of our favourite inquiries of all time – What is monitoring and evaluation? It may sound like a simple question but it is certainly an important one.

Before incorporating M&E into a project, it is vital to have a clear understanding of what it really is, its purpose, its significance and how monitoring differs from evaluation while being two sides of the same coin. Stay with us while we deep dive into monitoring and evaluation separately with some key questions to help you navigate the M&E path more accurately.

A quick intro to Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a powerful tool for transformational change and learning.

When a robust M&E plan is incorporated into a project at an early stage, it guides the project in the right direction from day one. M&E acts as a catalyst to leverage resources, improve project performance, reach the intended beneficiaries, provide accountability and transparency to the donors, stakeholders beneficiaries and maximise project impact, often within the established quality standards, estimated time frame and allocated budget.

Monitoring and evaluation goes hand-in-hand and are implemented continuously throughout the life of a project. However, it is helpful to understand each term on its own, so that you can have a thorough understanding of the functions, how they are interconnected and how they fit into the realm of a project.

What is Monitoring?

Simply put, monitoring is an ongoing activity that begins and ends with a project. Monitoring involves collection and analysis of data/information on a routine basis to identify patterns, changes and progress within the ongoing development intervention, against predetermined targets, indicators and objectives.

As monitoring is conducted by internal team members, it gives them a first-hand overview of the project to revise strategies as needed and make informed management decisions.

Monitoring helps the project team to discern whether their inputs and resources are adequate to implement the activities. It also helps them to track how the activities are being implemented and determine whether the activities are generating the intended outputs. Moreover, monitoring allows the team to identify gaps in implementation and formulate solutions to fix them as they arise. The project team is able to check compliance of project activities within the established standards and discern the effectiveness or inefficacy in the use of allocated funds and resources.

8 questions monitoring seeks to answer

Here’s a list of our 8 hand-picked Monitoring questions to get you started

What is Evaluation?

Evaluation, on the other hand, takes place at specific intervals of a project life-cycle. Unlike monitoring, evaluation looks at the bigger picture and delves deeper into project outcomes, impact and the overall goal and investigates their significance. In other words, evaluation utilises data (including monitoring data) to unravel the effectiveness of project design and implementation, the relevance of project goals and objectives, the efficiency of resource use, project strategies, organisational policies, operational area, the quality of results, the sustainability of project impact etc.

Evaluation seeks to understand how and why the intervention has worked so well or why it failed and suggests solutions for its improvements. Evaluation thus paints a much thorough picture and provides credible information and recommendations to enable organisations to incorporate lessons learned into their decision-making process for their long term growth and success.

10 questions evaluation seeks to answer

Our 10 key Evaluation questions to put you on the right track

Before we sign off, we would like to reiterate that monitoring and evaluation are interconnected processes; they both complement each other to help you make the most out of your interventions. So, next time you conceptualize a new project, make sure to include M&E from day one.

Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to share it with your network!

By Chandani Lopez Peralta, Content Marketing Manager at TolaData. 

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