As a project management tool, Measurement and Evaluation is a rapidly expanding field that has proven invaluable to any institute or organization, both public and private, government and non-government which utilizes programs and projects to bring about a desired change. It also ensures accountability to donors, beneficiaries and to the public. When teams are formed to develop new projects or programs, it takes an understanding of all those involved to determine what the initiative aims to do and how. Although there are varying terms and definitions used by numerous aid agencies, a few basic concepts the team needs to understand are:
- Problem Statement: The specific problem you are trying to address.
- Outcome: The final result of the program or project.
- Output: What the program or project will deliver to attain the Outcome.
- Activities: What the program or project will undertake to accomplish the Output(s).
- Theory of Change: How the design team envisions the program or project will bring about the desired change.
- Indicators: Program or project milestones to measure progress.
Implementing a well-designed project is comparable to a ship setting sail with the Project Manager as the Captain. Firstly, the Captain must know what harbor the ship is in. In terms of Measurement and Evaluation it is a baseline study that provides insights on the existing status and supports the rationale for the project. This is often done before the project is designed or at the onset of the project.
To be most effective, the baseline study should include both quantitative and qualitative data for comparison at the end of the project. This translates to the design team having to consider exactly what it is they intend to change and to what degree, then design the baseline study in such a way as to provide directly comparable sets of data taken at the onset and at the completion of the project.
Once the Captain has reached the port of his/her destination the journey is complete, but this needs to be independently verified in a final evaluation with data that is directly comparable to the baseline study to gauge the on-the-ground results of the project.
However, a ship’s journey is seldom so straightforward as to only consider the beginning and end. As in the case of the ship, a Navigator is necessary to track progress and measurement becomes an essential project management tool. The project design team sets out indicators to adequately measure the project progress. When indicators are monitored internally the project can make adjustments as necessary to ensure the project outputs are met. Notably, an independent Mid-term Evaluation can be used to make larger adjustments to ensure the activities are in-line with the project outputs and the outputs are still relevant to the project outcome.
For those familiar with the fields of international development and humanitarian assistance, the US Department of Defense (DOD) presents a unique case study to understand the importance of utilizing Measurement and Evaluation, and its applicability to other fields such as the military. One only has to recall how quickly the Iraqi army folded when confronting ISIS militants in 2014 to see why the DOD is an institution that has painfully recognized the consequences of not establishing a systematic approach to ensure accountability and gauge the effectiveness of its assistance programs.
The Hill published an opinion piece on January 25th, 2017 titled, Pentagon will finally find out if it pays to assist foreign armies, written by Diane Ohlbaum who is a principal of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. Ohlbaum states, “For the first time, security cooperation programs will be based on a clear description of the anticipated outcomes, a set of ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/results-oriented, and time-bound’ objectives, and a theory of change that explains why and how the outcomes are to be achieved.”
Ohlbaum notes the new DOD Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation Policy for the Security Cooperation Enterprise, “starts by requiring initial assessments of the extent to which potential partners share U.S. strategic objectives and are likely to use U.S. aid responsibly…. Rather than conducting one-time, standalone activities that may not add up to much, DOD will seek to integrate individual activities into unified, coherent, multiyear efforts to realize broader and more meaningful results. Those carrying out programs at the field level will be held responsible for monitoring progress, and a central Pentagon office will be charged with conducting evaluations, using internationally accepted standards for independence and scientific rigor.”
The policy shift of the DOD provides a prime example of why Measurement and Evaluation is not only important today but is a rapidly expanding profession applicable to many fields.
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation Policy for the Security Cooperation Enterprise, January 13, 2017.
Ohlbaum, Diane, Pentagon will finally find out if it pays to assist foreign armies, The Hill, 25 January, 2017. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/315967-pentgon-will-finally-find-out-whether-it-pays-to-assist-foreign?mobile_switch=standard.
About the Author
Mitch Teberg is the Monitoring and Evaluation Quality Assurance and Business Development Manager for Pbi2, a third party monitoring firm based in Mogadishu, Somalia. His role is oversight of field monitoring agents and mobile data collection, capacity building, and proposal development. Previously he was the Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for UNDP Afghanistan where his role included facilitating and supporting project formulation as well as strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems for improved accountability and aid effectiveness. For UNDP Afghanistan he has supported the development of USD 350m in programming in national and sub-national governance, livelihood development, disaster risk reduction, rural energy, women’s empowerment, reintegration of migrants and IDPs and anti-corruption. Prior to joining UNDP in 2012 he was a consultant and trainer for international and local NGOs in South Asia and Southeast Asia from 2006. Mr. Teberg holds a master’s degree in sustainable development from the SIT Graduate Institute, and in 2015 he completed American University’s graduate certificate in project monitoring and evaluation.
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