Monitoring and evaluation
A plan is only useful if it works in practice. Monitoring and evaluation will help you assess this and give you information to improve the programme or service in the future.
Check regularly against your project plans on changes and progress. Monitor regularly the services you provide.
Operational plan monitoring
Monitoring of your operational plans should be a part of the regular board or management committee meeting (generally monthly or quarterly).
To be effective, your services monitoring should be:
- purposeful and meaningful
- structured into the way the group is managed.
The type of services monitoring data to collect may include:
- client numbers (by age, gender, ethnicity, income level, referral source etc.)
- problems/issues being addressed (or not addressed)
- results of interventions
- level of unmet need (e.g. waiting lists).
It is also useful to monitor trends in relation to overall service demand or provision, for example:
- changing consumer/client group
- changes in the wider community
- changes in inter-agency working
- impact of any particular local events on the services.
Regular, systematic monitoring provides information that can inform planning and provide a reliable basis for the evaluation of your project or service.
Evaluation is an essential phase in the planning cycle. It is a more formal process than monitoring and will help you find out:
- whether the project or programme is working as planned
- the impact that your group, project or programme is making.
The basis of evaluation is collecting and analysing data that will provide you with information to gauge the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of your services and projects. Evaluations will also show you how to improve a programme or service, and allow you to prove to others (such as funders or other stakeholders) how well your group is performing.
It might sound complicated, but you don't have to be a scientist or a mathematician to carry out a useful evaluation. Focus on what you want to learn about the service or programme you are evaluating, and how you will collect and understand the information you gather. Remember, any sort of evaluation will be better than doing none at all.
Starting point for an evaluation
Evaluation should be built in to the overall planning for the project or programme. When you set the programme outcomes or objectives, ask yourself: how will we know whether we are meeting these outcomes or objectives? This is the starting place for evaluation.
During an evaluation of a service or programme, ask yourself:
Ensuring the evaluation is effective
To be effective, an evaluation must be:
- owned by the participants (i.e. participants believe it is a useful exercise)
- manageable in terms of:
- resources (personnel and cost)
- planned and systematic
- include all relevant contributors
- acted upon.
How detailed your evaluation report is will depend on for whom it is intended. For example, a report for a funder will probably be more formal and in-depth than an internal report for the members of your group. A good rule of thumb for any evaluation is that it should contain enough information so that someone outside the group can clearly see what you're evaluating and how you did it. Recording your evaluations will also help you when it comes time to do them again in the future.
Tip: Too often an evaluation finishes with an evaluation report that is used to impress potential funders, clients and other stakeholders. But if you feed the results of the evaluation back into the planning cycle, it will help you improve the service.