3.1 Introduction

new-imgPlease note minor addendum to Evaluation [June 2011] pdf-img

Why monitor and evaluate?

Monitoring and evaluation serve several purposes. In the absence of effective monitoring and evaluation, it would be difficult to know whether the intended results are being achieved as planned, what corrective action may be needed to ensure delivery of the intended results, and whether initiatives are making positive contributions towards human development. Monitoring and evaluation always relate to pre-identified results in the development plan. They are driven by the need to account for the achievement of intended results and provide a fact base to inform corrective decision-making. They are an essential management tool to support the UNDP commitment to accountability for results, resources entrusted to it, and organizational learning. Furthermore, both feed into the overall programme management processes and make an essential contribution to the ability to manage for development results.22

Monitoring, as well as evaluation, provides opportunities at regular pre-determined points to validate the logic of a programme, its activities and their implementation and to make adjustments as needed. Good planning and designs alone do not ensure results. Progress towards achieving results needs to be monitored. Equally, no amount of good monitoring alone will correct poor programme designs, plans and results. Information from monitoring needs to be used to encourage improvements or reinforce plans. Information from systematic monitoring also provides critical input to evaluation. It is very difficult to evaluate a programme that is not well designed and that does not systematically monitor its progress.

The key questions that monitoring seeks to answer include the following:

  • Are the pre-identified outputs being produced as planned and efficiently?
  • What are the issues, risks and challenges that we face or foresee that need to be taken into account to ensure the achievement of results?
  • What decisions need to be made concerning changes to the already planned work in subsequent stages?
  • Will the planned and delivered outputs continue to be relevant for the achievement of the envisioned outcomes?
  • Are the outcomes we envisaged remaining relevant and effective for achieving the overall national priorities, goals and impacts?
  • What are we learning?

Like monitoring, evaluation is an integral part of programme management and a critical management tool. Evaluation complements monitoring by providing an independent and in-depth assessment of what worked and what did not work, and why this was the case. After implementing and monitoring an initiative for some time, it is an important management discipline to take stock of the situation through an external evaluation.
The benefits of using evaluations are multiple. A quality evaluation provides feedback that can be used to improve programming, policy and strategy. Evaluation also identifies unintended results and consequences of development initiatives, which may not be obvious in regular monitoring as the latter focuses on the implementation of the development plan. Information generated from evaluations contributes to organizational learning as well as the global knowledge base on development effectiveness.

In fast evolving development contexts or in emerging, ongoing or post-crisis environments, the development plan needs to be dynamic and revised and improved over time. Whenever development plans are updated during implementation, it is necessary to document the rationale for such changes. Effective monitoring and evaluation is important as it provides evidence to base such changes through informed management decisions.

Why plan for monitoring and evaluation?

Effective and timely decision-making requires information from regular and planned monitoring and evaluation activities. Planning for monitoring and evaluation must start at the time of programme or project design, and they must be planned together. While monitoring provides real-time information on ongoing programme or project implementation required by management, evaluation provides more in-depth assessments. The monitoring process can generate questions to be answered by evaluation. Also, evaluation draws heavily on data generated through monitoring, including baseline data, information on the programme or project implementation process, and measurements of progress towards the planned results through indicators.

Planning for monitoring must be done with evaluation in mind: the availability of a clearly defined results or outcome model and monitoring data, among other things, determine the ‘evaluability’23 of the subject to be evaluated.