Career in monitoring and evaluation

The need of M & E in development sector: Monitoring and Evaluation is key to successful programming in the development programming context. A programmer in the development context needs to keep in mind that mere designing and implementation of the projects is not the key to successfully achieving the target or goals of the project. Some of us tend to focus all our attention to developing a great proposal and implementing it on ground. And several examples are there which one can cite where a programme is launched well but could not achieve the desired results at the end due to programmatic failures. The regular monitoring and evaluation of the programme, thus, forms the core of the intervention.

What is M&E role in an organisation: M&E is a technique to bring in quality of the project by regular monitoring the plan and its implementation, identify gaps and look for timely corrective measures for ensuring the result. It ensures the achievements and targets are met as per the design.

While this will be wrong to state that M&E is the sole step for ensuring results, but surely it is one of the most empirical and target oriented process that ensures the return of investment. This role is played by a person who brings in the objectivity of programme quality and intervention in the project.

The M&E role has two components to it- one, is played internally by  the person who handles the project, which is by regular monitoring exercises ( may be quarterly or half yearly) and the other role is played by an external person who could be from within or outside the organisation. The external person brings in the objectivity and freshness in to the programme by bringing in new perspective and also by showing a mirror to the project holders. Following roles are key responsibilities of a M&E person:

  1. For assessment of the steps as per the design
  2. For course correction
  3. Mid- term review for directions
  4. Impact assessments
  5. Programme review and audits
  6. Firming up the result chain

Knowledge, Skill, attitude required: To work on the M&E profile it is important to have analytical skills. Knowledge of development sector – acquired either through education specializing in social works or social sciences. Apart from the analytical skills one also needs to carry the attitude and behavioural skill sets to work with the poor and marginalised. There has to be a fine balance between the empathy for poor and objectivity of the programme. Since one has to have the empathy it becomes all the more important to have the skill to monitor and evaluate the project for achieving the set goals.

Knowledge of various tools and techniques of M&E are essential since techniques and tools vary depending on the nature of project. While most tools are available online and also through books there are certain tools and techniques like the participatory methodology and tools which one has to learn in vigorous trainings and workshops which are imparted by research agencies and well known organisations like PRIA, PRAXIS among others.

It is important to talk about the attitude that one should carry with them. The foremost being, appreciation of the fact that knowledge is possessed by all, it is just that some know the skill of showcasing it and some don’t know so well. Thus it is important for the reviewer to appreciate the knowledge that is available and respect the work done by people on ground. It is also important for the evaluators to ensure dialogue rather than monologues with the community or respondents or participants.

Second most critical thing will be to seek learning for self and organisation from the community, which can feed into organisational knowledge building process.

Potential and opportunity: M&E has always been the centre of programming. It is pertinent here to state that it will remain so with the coming years especially since now the development sector is more result oriented and dynamic. There is a lot of openness among NGOs and CSR initiatives to appoint professionals with skills of programme management especially M&E. A large number of organisations are now hiring people specifically for this role.

Approach to be taken for the fresher: One should always keep in mind that focus of the M&E process is the learning that gets generated both for the organisation- both reviewer and reviewee, and also for the individual reviewer and the community.

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Deepali Bhattacharya

Born and brought up in Delhi. I have studied in Delhi university and JNU in the social sciences stream. Have worked for last 18 years in international NGO- Action aid International India, Tata Institute of Social Science and CRY. Have been trained in various tools of monitoring and evaluation and have been doing trainings and capacity building for team building, motivation, target setting developing strategy and stress management.

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