Updated: Feb 18
The work that we do on projects is similar. Daily, weekly or monthly we check our projects to see how we are doing. This work is called monitoring, and it gives us the power to make informed decisions. Every few months - perhaps once a quarter, once a year, or at the end of a project - we take a look at all the work we have done, compare it to the original project plan and assess how successful we’ve been. This work is called evaluation. Monitoring and evaluation both depend on carefully collecting data about our project, thinking about what the data mean, and using the data to answer questions. The difference between monitoring and evaluation is how often the data are used, the kinds of data that are looked at, and what the data are used for.
Monitoring data are used regularly: daily, weekly, or monthly. Monitoring data are used to answer questions such as:
· Is our project reaching its targets?
· Is our project spending money and resources efficiently?
· Have any problems come up?
· Have we noticed any successes?
Evaluation data are only used at specific times. For example, evaluation data may be used every year, halfway through the project, or at the end of the project. Evaluation data are used to answer questions like:
· Did our project achieve what it planned on achieving?
· Was our project a good use of money and resources?
· Did something happen that we didn’t plan?
· Did we learn something unexpected?
Whether we’re talking about monitoring or evaluation, the overall approach is the same: we are collecting facts and data to inform our decisions.
We each have our own biases. These are our expectations for how the world should work or how our project should go. A strong M&E practice will allow us to be aware of our biases and to set them aside by collecting true, unbiased information. When used properly, M&E leads to better, less-biased project management. This approach is called evidence-based management.
If you collect data for monitoring, you will be better prepared for evaluation. The information that you collect for monitoring is often the same information that evaluation experts will use.