A doctoral thesis providing a coherent theoretical framework for developing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) information systems within international aid agencies.

Using soft systems methodologies (SSM), the thesis develops the theoretical basis for M&E through a transdisciplinary review of three academic fields: information systems, organisational effectiveness and project management. It is argued that inadequacies in the operationalisation of M&E systems arise from divergent epistemological and ontological assumptions about the nature of information and its role within organisations that are concerned with effecting social change. The M&E framework proposed seeks to resolve the dilemma posed by these divergent assumptions. This involves a M&E information system (i.e. MEIS) that is novel in terms of its scope, purpose and application.

Firstly, the scope of the proposed MEIS takes in the entire aid organisation, going beyond the dominant, conventional approach, which is project-centric. This enables alignment of project strategies with organisational mission. Further, it aims to promote the institutionalisation of lessons learned within projects (conceived as ‘social experiments’) for organisational learning, thereby enabling informed debate about the effectiveness of the organisation in fostering sustainable development.

Secondly, the purpose of the proposed MEIS is concerned with promoting organisational success. The critical success factors of learning and accountability are identified, and the role of M&E in encouraging responsive management decision-making and critical inquiry and reflection is described.

Thirdly, the application of the proposed MEIS involves a modified logframe. The ‘3D-Logframe’ serves as a conceptual basis to address limitations found with the conventional two-dimensional logframe matrix when employed for M&E purposes.

The proposed M&E framework was developed out of iterations of action in the field and reflection.  Further research will involve applying the framework in its entirety.