Who cares? Who cares whether a health project in Uganda meets its stated objectives? Who finds it important that funds allocated for education in Afghanistan are spent effectively? Who lies awake at night hoping that the school in the village will stay open so that her daughter can go to school next year? These people, or groups of people, are often called project “stakeholders.” They, the donors, implementers, and project beneficiaries, are the ones for whom it is important that a project succeeds.
How do we know whether a project has succeeded or failed? Enter the field of Program Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). In development settings, a good M&E system helps us understand whether our project has met its goals, has spent its money wisely, and is worthy of additional funding. In its simplest form, a good M&E system starts at the beginning with a firm understanding of the project theory, continues with a sound, comprehensive implementation plan including monitoring activities, and ends with an evaluation to learn about effectiveness and impact.
It seems logical, then, that those who care about a project should be involved in this M&E system. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Donors may say they don’t have enough time or resources to participate. Implementation partners may not have the capacity to effectively contribute valid data. And project beneficiaries may simply not understand what the process is all about. I write today to advocate for taking the time to include these stakeholders in the process. Why? There are so many reasons, I should write a book. Here are a few examples:
- Today’s development projects and good M&E systems most often include a logic model or LogFrame. The LogFrame lays out, in a linear way, the logic of a program: “if we do this, then this will happen.” Francis Yuen writes that, “developing a logic model also uncovers assumptions and expectations” and that, “developing a logic model works best as a group exercise.” If we do not include stakeholders in this process, we run the risk of developing a project that does not meet donor expectations and does not work in practice. Bringing a variety of opinions and ideas into planning makes it much more likely that a project will succeed.
- Conducting monitoring activities is always time consuming. Who wants to complete yet another monitoring form? There never seems to be enough time to implement the project, let alone collect data and monitor whether the activities are being implemented according to plan. Involving stakeholders in the process of designing and implementing a monitoring plan can help share these responsibilities and makes it more likely that they will actually be completed accurately. “Many hands make for light work!”
- Michael Bamburger writes that, “clients and other stakeholders can have widely varying expectations of what an evaluation is and what it can produce.” It is thus critical to include donors and other stakeholders in evaluation planning. An evaluation that does not answer the questions the donors and other stakeholders want answered will not be very useful. It will sit in a drawer, unutilized, and serve as an example of a waste of time and money.
These are just three of the reasons why stakeholders should be involved in M&E efforts. The many others and strategies for how to involve stakeholders are made clear in American University’s School of Professional and Extended Services’ online Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation.
Francis Yuen, Kenneth Terao, and Anna Marie Schmidt, Effective Grant Writing and Program Evaluation for Human Service Professionals, Wiley, 2009, pg. 89.
Michael Bamberger, Jim Rugh, and Linda Mabry, Real World Evaluation: Working Under Budget, Time, and Political Constraints, 2nd ed., SAGE, 2012, pg. 37.
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.