Planning, Monitoring Evaluation & Learning
We often feel intimidated by the words “monitoring and evaluation” (M&E) and feel frightened by it, like it is a testing of our work or of our competence. Most of us don’t realise we are actually doing M&E in all our work all the time. PMEL helps your workflow, it isn’t a test. To demystify the concepts of PMEL, let’s look at what the words mean in simple terms, in an organisational context:
Planning: This is normally a detailed proposal (or suggestion / draft) for doing or achieving something that is still to happen. When you plan, you are deciding on actions in advance. A plan is your decision about what, how, and when you are going to do something in the future. It’s a guide for the way forward.
Monitoring: This is when we pause, look and check the progress, quantity &/or quality of something. For example, you check on work progress at intervals to see if plans are on track. Information you get from monitoring tells you where things are going well and where the challenges are so that you can make needed adaptations. Monitoring gives you information about whether you will reach your planned targets if you continue doing things the way you are. Monitoring can also tell you when to change your original plans because they were maybe not realistic to start with; or no longer effective because circumstances have changed since the original plans were made.
Evaluating: Generally, if you evaluate something you are assessing it in order to make a judgment about it, about how good or bad it is or how effective or not something is. Evaluation can take place at any stage in a project or programme’s cycle, but most often it takes place at the end of a project, after a specific time period, at the end of a planned task, at the end of a funding cycle etc. A formal evaluation is an in-depth investigation by an independent person into an organisation’s ability to deliver outputs, checked against its plans and usually also includes an element of impact assessment. Impact assessment simply means checking if your activity made the envisaged positive difference or change for/in your beneficiaries.
This is when we gain knowledge about something by studying it or experiencing it. In terms of PMEL, learning is when you reflect on the information and data you gathered in your monitoring and evaluation. By reflecting, you are taking time to review and debrief, to list your lessons learned (this is gained knowledge). These lessons learned inform your next steps of planning so that you can be more organised, more effective and do things even better in the future