The raison d’etre of M&E is to enable accountability (‘to prove’) and learning (‘to improve’). This can only be done if M&E data is used…in other words, it is supplied to interested stakeholders in an accurate, relevant and timely form.
But who are these “interested stakeholders”?
It has occurred to me that M&E information is required by stakeholders in four ‘directions’:
- Downwards: M&E information commonly follows a uni-directional flow ‘upwards’ from beneficiaries to donors. But it is essential that information be fed back ‘down’ to contractors, partners and counterparts. Where feedback does not occur, it inevitably limits opportunities for debate and learning. Further, it ignores the reality that all stakeholders depend on timely, accurate and relevant information to perform.
- Sideways: there is normally value harmonising M&E arrangements with other relevant interventions in the sector or geographic location. In particular, there is often value in collaborating with the capture and analysis of higher-order information such as that concerned with impact and effectiveness—of relevance to a broader audience beyond any single intervention.
- Inwards: the internal role of M&E information within implementation teams is often narrowly defined, and focussed on complying with reporting obligations. However, performance information should meet the unique information needs of all key functions within the implementaiton team. It is especially important for test ‘hypotheses of change’ implicit in intervention designs. There should be ongoing critique and debate with the implementation team about what works; what does not work; and why.
- Outwards: there is often little attention given to mechanisms for engendering public transparency about intervention successes and failures—this is ironic given the broad mandate of most international aid programs seek to empower communities. Also, there is often little effort directed towards analysing the information needs of partners and counterparts, and strengthening their M&E capacity and systems. Arguably, the capacity and systems to enable critical self analysis are fundamental to human development. Hence, M&E is itself a potentially valuable ‘technology’ to ‘transfer’.