I recently had a conversation with a senior bilateral aid donor official that confirmed a growing feeling I’ve had that the ‘M&E bubble’ may burst sometime soon.
In recent years the field of ‘M&E’ has escalated from a peripheral area to a highly sought-after discipline. Demand for greater accountability and evidence of aid effectiveness has been a driving force for more, and better M&E.
But I’ve begun getting a sense that the pendulum may be reaching the end of its arc. The recent conversation with the bilateral donor official mentioned above indicated that there was a growing frustration with the inadequacy of M&E information to support its own fundamental tenet…to inform judgements about aid project performance. The risk then is that the whole concept of M&E is rejected outright, rather than discriminaing between good and bad quality M&E (aka ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’!).
There are at least two reasons why the M&E bubble may burst…
- Unrealistic expectations about what M&E can achieve…particularly an expectation that unmeasurable things should be measured, and frustration when they are not
- Poor quality work by M&E professionals…including ‘data dumping’ (overloading stakeholders with a mountain of data, rather than exerting the effort to synthesise the key issues in a more accessible form)
In order for M&E not to be rejected outright, it is the responsibility of M&E professionals to do good work with integrity, and to constantly educate stakeholders about the limits of M&E as a ‘science’.