4.4 Use of monitoring data for management action and decision-making
Data and information on progress towards results are gathered, reviewed and used at the project, outcome, sectoral and programme levels. These entities are interconnected and reinforce each other. There is a two-way flow of information among them with the following common objectives:
Monitoring data normally aggregates from project level to higher level results. At the project level, the use of monitoring information can be summarized as follows.The first monitoring action at the project level is to be clear of what is expected in terms of project-specific results and what is to be done with respect to monitoring actions. At the beginning, projects should: have a
clear scope (that continues to be clear throughout the project); expected deliverables and how these contribute to the higher level results; ensure that cumulative annual targets are adequate to produce the envisaged outputs; and ensure that they lead to the delivery of planned outputs in the agreed time-frame. This information is initially captured in the project results framework and its M&E framework. This process should be repeated at each annual project review to continuously validate that delivery of outputs is on schedule and remains relevant. If this is not the case, higher level boards or committees should be notified so that any implications on the overall planned results can be reviewed for modifications, new time-frames and costs.
Monitoring data should be collected according to the AWP, and in the case of UNDP, by using Atlas-generated quarterly progress reports. The project should review the data to:
Progress towards generating outputs and their continued relevance to the outcome and issues should be synthesized and forwarded to the agency to which the project reports and to the respective outcome or sectoral monitoring mechanism. On the basis of that monitoring data, the project management and board or steering committee should re-confirm that the delivery of outputs is on schedule and that the project is contributing towards the desired outcomes. If not, they should determine what changes are needed. If revisions to plans are needed, then the project management should draft the revisions, including the results framework with new cost estimates, annual targets and so forth, to facilitate decision-making at higher levels. Such information could be provided at agreed intervals such as quarterly, semi-annually, annual or on an as needed basis.
Sectoral and outcome-level coordinating mechanisms play a critical role in results monitoring and developing capacities for monitoring. They forge partnerships around initiatives supported by partners to achieve common results, provide oversight in a collective spirit, make linkages to national systems and national development goals, and promote the development of monitoring capacities.
At the beginning of the programme or project implementation, the existence of such outcome-level monitoring and oversight mechanisms should be verified. If such mechanisms do not exist, then arrangements should be made to set up such groups through engagement with national partners. As interim measures, UN Theme Groups could be set up in accordance with UNDG (CCA and UNDAF) Guidelines. The outcome and sectoral monitoring mechanisms should take the following actions:
The sectoral or outcome coordinating mechanism should continually assess the status of outputs and related initiatives by partners—all of which contribute to an intended outcome. It does so by examining information from all relevant projects, national reports, donor reports and other sources. It should review the findings of quarterly and annual reviews pertaining to the outcomes and identify lessons that are to be fed back into programming, and serve as a vehicle for ensuring documenting and disseminating lessons learned. It also serves as the focal team for outcome evaluations. Specifically it should:
It is important to keep in mind that the outcome and sector-level coordinating mechanisms are ‘larger’ than the United Nations and UNDP programme, as they focus on the achievement of the national outcomes. Hence, the United Nations and UNDP is one of many contributors towards the achievement of these outcomes. Ideally, the outcome and sector-level coordinating mechanisms should not be a United Nations or UNDP management arrangement but an existing national structure that is charged to coordinate the sector within the national context.
Each partner (such as UNDP) that contributes to one or more outcome typically has its own arrangements to plan, implement and monitor the contributions it is making to results. For UNDP at the country level, this is the function of the CPAP and its monitoring and annual review. The M&E framework, which is the CPAP monitoring framework, forms the basis for this purpose.
The primary question to address at the programme level is: Does UNDP, as a partner, ensure that its programme is effectively contributing to the planned UNDP country programme, UNDAF and national results within the agreed partnership arrangements? The same principle applies for UNDP regional programmes, global programme and the Strategic Plan. Furthermore, it should also ascertain whether or not country programmes, regional programmes and the global programme are contributing to the objectives and envisaged outcomes of the Strategic Plan.
The following steps are necessary to organize programme-level monitoring:
The same analytical work should feed the corporate learning and reporting processes. For UNDP, this means that the managers of country, regional and global programmes should feed the findings of this analysis into the RBM Platform to report on progress against the Strategic Plan.
Annual review with key stakeholders
The annual review with the participation of all key stakeholders is a key monitoring event at the national programme or UNDAF level. It is the culmination of monitoring activities that started at the project level and cascaded upwards through the outcome and individual partner programme level during the year. The annual review facilitates a dialogue among senior managers to assess progress towards results (outputs and outcomes). It is also a forum that is used for building a stronger mutual understanding and consensus among partners on the issues directly relevant to achieving the planned results and for making key high-level decisions. Annual reviews are ideally held towards the end of the year, and the discussions are meant to guide and approve plans for the following year.
Annual reviews have to be well planned in order to extract the best results from them. The following should be considered in the preparation for the annual review:
Global and regional programmes (of UNDP)
At a minimum, an annual review of the global programme and of each regional programme must be held. These annual reviews are informed by a variety of information sources, including APRs of constituent projects.
Box 25. Typical UNDAF annual review process and lessons learnt
At the country level:
The UNDP annual review process is linked to the UNDAF annual review, which is the once-a-year opportunity for all agencies and national partners to review the UNCT contribution to achievement of national goals based on the UNDAF Results Matrix. In consultation with national partners, the UNCT decides on the meeting’s scope and modalities.
The UNDAF annual review should provide the UNCT and national partners with:
UNDP contributes to the annual UNDAF review through the annual results reporting in CPAP. The annual report of CPAP is prepared from: analyses that originate from project APRs and the project boards; coordinated comments on each outcome by sectoral or outcome coordinating mechanisms (including national coordination mechanisms and UN Theme Groups) to reflect progress towards outcome at outcome levels; and project and outcome evaluations or any other relevant outcome and project reviews that have been carried out during the year, including those carried out by other partners.
Substantively, UNDP contribution to UNDAF annual review—a synthesis of the CPAP annual report—includes: a brief assessment of the achievement of annual targets of all UNDP funded activities in the context of achieving UNDAF outcomes; operational issues of the CPAP implementation; and any modifications to the existing CPAP that would require agreement of non-UNDP partners.
Some general lessons learned from conducting UNDAF annual reviews, based on the experience of the Solomon Islands:
Follow up to annual review
Use of monitoring data in evaluations
Effective monitoring generates a solid data base for evaluations. Data, reports, analysis and decisions based on monitoring evidence should be retained with a view to making them easily accessible to evaluations.