Monitoring, evaluation and review are not isolated actions, they are parts of the same process.
Monitoring is the ongoing process of regularly collecting and analysing relevant information to make sure you are doing what you set out to do. It tends to happen continuously, but sets of information may be gathered together at regular intervals, for example quarterly.
Evaluation is when you assess whether what you have been doing is really making the difference that you intended it to. It tends to happen less frequently, for example annually or at the end of a longer-term project.
Review is when you look at the results of an evaluation and decide whether it needs to change. Information from monitoring may also prompt a review of a small area of your work, but a substantial review can only take place once a proper evaluation of your effectiveness has taken place. Review may take place annually or at the end of a longer term project.
What kind of information should you collect?
The voluntary management committee should decide what information they require in order to monitor, evaluate and review. If there are staff, they should also have an input. Other partners may also have ideas, and some funders may require certain information to be gathered as a condition of funding. If so, make sure you collect this information from the beginning. You must plan for monitoring, evaluation and review at the beginning of your work. Trying to collect information to prove your worth in retrospect is extremely difficult.
It is important to decide the level of detail of information required, and to identify ‘key indicators’ that reflect your aims and objectives as laid out in your business plan. A key indicator is something that you can measure to show whether you are, or not, achieving your aims and objectives. The changes in the measurements of these key indicators will give a picture of how you are performing over time.
Key indicators will vary depending on the organisation. They will usually be a mixture of ‘hard indicators’ (quantitative, more objective eg number of clients worked with; income and expenditure figures) or ‘soft indicators’ (qualitative, more subjective eg clients’ perception of how the service has helped them; opinion of partner organisations).
By monitoring the information you collect, you should be able to demonstrate that you are on the right track. But it is only when you properly evaluate that you will discover whether you are really making a difference.
How do you evaluate that information?
Evaluation is an assessment of whether your organisation has made a difference. It includes:
- Outputs – things you have produced – for example you may have set up a credit union and published a money management guide
- Outcomes – what happened as a result of the outputs – members of your credit union and users of your guide are better able to manage money
- Impact Assessment – the overall impact of your activity – poverty levels amongst service users is reducing.
Outputs and outcomes are mainly related to your objectives but it is the impact assessment that is most directly related to your aim.
Monitoring, evaluation and review is not always a simple process and can be filled with jargon which can often confuse. It is well worth seeking advice and help from other sources. As a first step you should always ask yourself this question: ‘What information will prove that what I’m doing is making the difference I said it would?’ Remember, effective monitoring, evaluation and review will help your organisation survive.