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Monitoring methods

How do I monitor and document impact?

Category: EvaluationName: Dawn Sellers, Project Officer
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“Monitoring and evaluation is an important aspect of a project, and needs dedicated capacity to lead and implement”

Why?

Monitoring and documenting impact of a project is really important, and having a good tool in place to do this is the key to success. Developing a monitoring and evaluation plan allows you to document progress against actions and objectives, which enables you to monitor the impact your project is having.

Monitoring is carried out primarily for the benefit of the project team. Good monitoring allows you to determine whether your project is on track. That is, it tells you what progress you are making relative to your planned vision, goals, objectives and strategic activities. Analysis of your monitoring data helps you to adapt the project design and plans to get the best results.

For the Celtic Seas Partnership we used the following techniques to monitor impact and progress:

  • A logical framework or ‘logframe’, which included the following headings: Action, Expected results, Indicators, Targets, method, deliverable products, who’s responsible, baseline, cost, means of verification, mid-term result, adaptive management and actual result by end.
  • Theory of change: allowed the team to reconnect with the bigger picture and ensured that everyone understands and appreciates how their individual parts contributed to the project goals. You could include the following:
    • A Conceptual model: this outlines the key threats that we believe impact the biodiversity target of the project, showing the links and connections between them.
    • A contractual project statement: this is the theory of change as set out by the project Grant Agreement
    • A results chain: this diagram sets out the theory of change in reality, showing the logic of the project. It describes the strategic activities being taken to address the threats outlined in the conceptual model.
  • Risk Register: It’s important to monitor external factors (outside of the project) that may stop or hinder achieving your goals. If you are aware of the risks you can put in place mitigation.
  • Reflections and learning: organise a team reflection session at least once a year:
    • To capture some of the lessons from the project, including specific lessons from the different actions.
    • To understand what worked well and what didn’t work so well, and the reasons.
    • To reflect on the changes that were made to planned activities/approaches throughout the project, and to capture what difference/impacts they have had on the results.
    • To identify whether you would change anything in hindsight
  • Conduct a mid-term review and final evaluation

Step by Step

  1. Start by developing a logframe template
  2. Fill in the template with the project’s aims, goals, objectives and actions
  3. Designate a team member to be responsible for each of the actions and sub-actions
  4. Involve the rest of the team to set indicators of success, expected results, targets etc. for each of their actions and sub-actions
  5. Update and fill in the plan at least every 6 months (it should be a ‘working document’)
  6. Review the project’s impact at least every 6 months and put adaptive management measures in place if needed.
  7. Finish by filling in the final results by the end of the project and assessing whether you’ve met your targets and assessing the impact.

Top Tips

It’s good practice to have a monitoring and evaluation plan in place at the beginning of a project. It’s also really important to involve all team members in developing the plan, to feel a sense of ownership. It’s harder to produce and fill out a logframe the further along the project you are and trying to fill it in retrospectively. These are things we’ve learned first-hand with the Celtic Seas Partnership. Monitoring and evaluation is an important aspect of a project, and needs dedicated capacity to lead and implement. It will be much harder when you come to the end of a project to assess impact if you don’t have a logframe in place that has been regularly reviewed and updated.

Here are some other lessons we’ve learned about monitoring and evaluation (M&E) throughout our project:

  • Have a dedicated person to oversee M&E
  • The team need to be involved with M&E and understand what their role is/what they’re responsible for
  • Show why M&E is important – it is how you measure your success!
  • Regular face to face meetings for planning and reflection on progress are critical
  • It’s harder to update the logframe retrospectively, so update it regularly
  • The whole team need to be involved in developing a theory of change at the beginning of the project, and review it annually to check it still holds true.

Resources

Time

It would probably require a good week to initially develop a plan for monitoring and evaluation, then follow-up meetings with team members to help fill out their sections of the logframe. If you keep on top of keeping the plan updated as you go along, then it would reduce the amount of time needed to fill it in at the end of the project. Approximately half a day a year for reflection and learning.  One day a year to review the theory of change.

People

You will need to involve the whole team to help keep the monitoring and evaluation plan up-to-date – including external partners. Involving the team in developing the monitoring and evaluation plan from the beginning will help ensure that the feel a sense of shared ownership. The monitoring and evaluation plan is an internal document, which should not be shared with external stakeholders.

Cost

You will need Microsoft Excel.

Glossary of Terms

Indicators: this is what you will measure, which will be related to a specific information need, such as the status of a target, change in a threat, or progress toward an objective. It specifies the evidence which tells you if an expected result/objective has been reached. Indicators can be quantitative measures or qualitative observations.

Methods: this is an explanation of how you will collect data. It’s the specific techniques used to collect data.

Baseline Data: this is the status right at the beginning the project, and will be used as a benchmark to measure all subsequent data gathered over the life of the project. By comparing the baseline data to the final result at the end of the project allows you to see what impact the project has had.