4.2 Preparing to monitor by reinforcing the initial M&E plan

Once there is clear understanding on the monitoring policy, operational context, roles and responsibilities, one can prepare to implement monitoring actions. The first activity in implementing monitoring activities is to ensure that the M&E framework is up to date. The M&E framework prepared at the end of the planning stage of a programme or project (described in Chapter 3), forms the basis for this purpose. It should be carefully reviewed and elaborated as necessary.

There is no artificially fixed time for elaborating the M&E framework, except that it should be done prior to implementing programme initiatives and as close as possible to when actual implementation starts. For UNDP country, regional and global programmes, the detailed programme-level M&E framework should be prepared after the submission of the respective programme documents for Executive Board approval. The period of six to nine months prior to the beginning of the programme implementation cycle is often opportune to do this. For country programmes, this period is when the CPAP and its constituent projects and their AWPs are prepared. Such timing helps forge better linkages and mutual reinforcement between programmes and projects, thereby not only increasing the overall coherence of the programmes, but also enabling monitoring to be focused on a coherent set of programmatic activities and targets .

As noted in Chapter 3, the M&E framework comprises three components: a narrative component,a results framework, and a planning matrix for monitoring and evaluation. Any changes that might be needed to the narrative component are unlikely to be substantial, and updating of that component would be relatively straightforward. However, there might be a need to refine the results map and the planning matrix for monitoring and evaluation on the basis of new (and more accurate) information that emerges during the development of specific projects. Detailed information on the outcomes, outputs and related indicators, baselines, risks, and assumptions becomes clearer during the development stages of the CPAP and specific constituent projects, which takes place subsequent to the initial overall programme planning stage. Data that emerges during detailed project development stages could significantly improve the initial descriptions of outputs, indicators, baselines, risks and assumptions, and thereby enhance the effectiveness and quality of monitoring.Moreover, the M&E framework is first prepared at the end of the planning process, which is focused on planning for results. Detailed information pertaining to implementation or monitoring (for example, type or scheduling of monitoring events, methods to be used, and so forth) could not have been easily accessible or accurately predicted at that time. Therefore, it should be carefully reviewed and incorporated at this stage.

Elaborating the M&E framework provides the opportunity for the M&E framework to be a more realistic and effective tool for monitoring. An example of the planning matrix is given in Table 14 based on the sample results table on the enhanced capacity of electoral management authority discussed in Chapter 2.

For UNDP, at the country level, the CPAP is the overall instrument for managing results. The M&E framework for the CPAP should be prepared and finalized along with the CPAP and ideally be seen as a constituent component to the latter. Similarly, for regional and global programmes, M&E frameworks should be prepared mirroring the respective programme approved by the Executive Board.

Updating the M&E framework is not a one-time event. Each time a significant change to the results framework is effected, for example when existing projects are completed or new projects are added to the CPAP, both the CPAP and the M&E framework should be revised and approved. Annual work planning is the most pertinent point for this continuous updating of the CPAP and M&E framework.

The finalization of the CPAP and the M&E framework is a critical point in initiating monitoring. The following four actions should take place in this phase:

  • At the individual project level, develop detailed M&E frameworks for projects in accordance with the generation of project specific outputs. The project-level outputs should be the same as those in overall planning documents of programmes (CPDs, CPAPs, and regional and global programme documents) and their M&E frameworks. Furthermore, the project results matrices and the project M&E plans should be synchronized with the programmes and their M&E plans. Initial data needed for setting up monitoring should be gathered during the formulation stage of each project. The project results and monitoring information should then be entered into relevant national, corporate, project or programme management information systems (for UNDP, this is Atlas).
  • As projects are implemented through AWPs, it is critical to set annual targets for outputs and clearly reflect them in the AWPs of projects for monitoring purposes at the end of the year. (See Section 4.3 further details on AWPs.) Unlike outcomes, each partner responsible for an output has to generate the entire output that is contributing towards the outcome. Therefore, what matters most in project-level monitoring is to have clear means to indicate progress towards generating the entire output through annual targets.
  • Once agreed upon, lock annual output targets in AWPs for performance monitoring in any existing national or corporate results management or outcome monitoring systems. For UNDP, the annual output targets in AWPs of projects would also serve as the reference points in the corporate results monitoring systems. They are therefore first entered in Atlas and then captured by the RBM Platform.
  • At the programme level, ensure that the elaborated programme-level M&E framework and the constituent projects flow from outputs to outcomes (results logic) and from projects to country programme (management entities).

Once these activities have been completed, the monitoring actions can be systematically implemented.