Monitoring and Evaluation in International Development

Imagine yourself in this setting: You are a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team leader working as part of a large-scale education project in Indonesia.  The first Phase of the project is ending and Phase Two of the project will begin soon.  But, before the funding for Phase Two will be released, an evaluation must be conducted and a new project plan created based on the information gathered in the evaluation.  You have very little money left to actually complete a high-quality evaluation and limited time to prepare the follow-on plan.  Compounding the problem is a conflict between your two local implementing partners and a massive monsoon that washed out a major road leading to one of your key project sites.   What do you do? 

This situation is entirely realistic in an international development setting.  Michael Bamburger, in his seminal textbook Real World Evaluation1, writes that M&E efforts are constrained by issues of time, budget, politics, and data.  It is highly unlikely that circumstances in these settings will allow for all the time and money needed, perfect understanding of the task at hand, and all of the data required to conduct a complete analysis.  In these cases, the M&E staff person needs a variety of skills to get the job done:

  • Problem solving and quick, creative thinking: Another route will need to be found to the project site or another site chosen altogether for evaluation purposes.  Having a variety of data collection methods available and being flexible with how they are implemented can help.
  • Negotiation and consensus building: The two project partners will need to resolve their differences so that they can work together on the evaluation and, hopefully, the new project plan.  M&E professionals are adept at bringing people together to understand a project’s theory and design initiatives to reach an agreed goal.
  • Communication skills:  The M&E team must communicate these constraints to the donor and truly understand its information needs in terms of the evaluation and the follow-on plan. Additionally, these needs should be communicated to other project stakeholders and beneficiaries who are expected to provide information and insight into present and future project activities.

And, critical to the success of the entire initiative is an in-depth understanding of the principles of Monitoring and Evaluation, which includes a “tool-box” of ideas and methods available for use in a variety of different settings.  The American University, Office of Graduate & Professional Studies can give you this “tool-box.”  Students working toward the online Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation have the opportunity to:

  • Understand and utilize M&E planning tools such as LogFrames and Performance Monitoring Plans in a real project context.
  • Choose between a variety of evaluation types (formative, summative, impact, etc.) and data gathering methods (quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method) to provide appropriate, useful information to those commissioning it.
  • Practice communication and negotiation skills as well as practical M&E skills while working on evaluation in a real-world setting.  Students will design and implement qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis to answer real-world questions.

As a result, the situation described above will likely be an interesting challenge rather than an insurmountable task to those with an American University Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation.  

1Michael Bamberger, Jim Rugh, and Linda Mabry, Real World Evaluation: Working Under Budget, Time, and Political Constraints, 2nd ed., Los Angeles, SAGE, 2012. ISBN-°©‐10: 1412979625 and ISBN-°©‐13: 978-°©‐1412979627


About the Author
Leslie Sherriff has worked since 1996 in the international relief and development field. Her experience includes nine years with Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest relief and development organizations in the United States. During that time, Ms. Sherriff helped design the CRS Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) social housing program, which has been recognized as a leader in its field, prompting real legislative change in BiH and subsequent funding from a variety of donors. Ms. Sherriff holds a Master of Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh in the USA and a Master of Evaluation and Social Research from London Metropolitan University in London, England.

To learn more about American University’s online Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.