Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a key component of any project. But what is it exactly, and why is it important?
If I were to sum up M&E in a phrase, it would be: “It’s not enough to be good, you have to prove you are good.” In a nutshell, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a systematic way to document and demonstrate—to prove—the impact of a project or program. Based on the desired impact for a project, M&E allows us to:
- First, measure where the project and participants are at prior to, or at the beginning of, the intervention.
- Second, monitor progress (or regression) during project implementation, and refine and change course if necessary.
- And third, evaluate—or look back from a certain point and assess progress —to see if the desired impact was achieved and to identify “lessons learned” and recommendations for future projects.
In sum, the information and data collected and analyzed via M&E can provide compelling proof for if, why, and how an initiative could be refined in course, and replicated in the future.
M&E involves measuring outputs, or “what we do,” in a project: e.g. numbers of trainings, people trained, new projects started as a result of training, and so on. But True Roots is committed to going beyond numbers and immediate results in M&E to consider outcomes and impact, or “what difference is there” as a result of the project in the mid- to long-term*. For example: what knowledge, skills, and attitudes did participants acquire as part of a training, and how do they apply these knowledge, skills, and attitudes post-training? And going even deeper: is there a “ripple effect” from these activities, over time and at various levels? Are there changes across generations, at a personal, family, community, regional, national, and global level?
So what does this look like in action? At the moment, True Roots is conducting M&E for a Rotary Global Grant, a joint effort of the Rotary Foundation, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and Rotary District 4185 in Mexico. In late May, 280 youth leaders from every state in Mexico attended “A Strong Mexico: Pillars of Positive Peace,” a 2-day intensive training on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) pioneering peace measurement methodology.
For this M&E work, we’ve designed monitoring and evaluation tools to provide a baseline and reference point by which to measure the (desired) long-term “ripple effects” from this training: from district/global grant applications to changes in regional issues related to peace. This impact may seem farfetched, but we believe it is possible. We can dream big with projects. But in order to make this dream a reality, and to show how an organization helped accomplish it—we need monitoring and evaluation.
*Further reading: we recommend the article “It’s Not Just Semantics: Managing Outcomes Vs Outputs” for an interesting perspective on the important difference between “outcomes” and “outputs” in the non-profit and for-profit worlds.