While the project activities are the actions that need funding, the reason donors are interested in funding proposals is really for the results. Donors are looking for value for money, so it is important to highlight the many results a project can achieve during its lifetime and after.
Project results are the changes or effects that are expected to take place after implementing the project. The results are generally positive improvements to the lives of the beneficiaries.
Results are divided into three types:
Outputs are immediate results achieved soon after the completion an activity. For example, in a project training locals on human rights, the output might be “20 community workers trained in basic human rights concepts.”
The outcomes are results that are achieved after a period of time. These are the short-term effectsof the immediate outputs. If after some time a change occurs because of the project activity, it can be called an outcome. Continuing the above example, the outcome might be: “the participants used their training to inform other community members about their human rights.”
The impact is the long-term result that came about because of the activities undertaken in the project. For the above example, the impact of the project might be that one year later, the whole community is aware of human rights issues and in the next election the community largely voted against a leader with a history of human rights violations.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Project results are very important. The results are the reason why the project exists and the reason why donors would be interested in funding the project. That is why donors are very interested in knowing what the exact results will be and how they will be measured. This is where an M&E plan is useful.
Monitoring and Evaluation or M&E, is an approach that has mainly been developed to measure and assess the success and performance of projects, programs or even entire organizations.
M&E is an important requirement for donors, but proper M&E provides benefits to implementing organizations as well:
- Catch problematic developments early on
- Provide solid evidence for future donors on project successes
- Acquire access to large amounts of data for future research, proposals, marketing etc.
Monitoring and evaluation refer to two different processes that are closely tied together and therefore used in the same sentence most of the time. However, it is important to make a distinction between the two in order to clearly understand the terms.
Monitoring refers to the measuring and documenting of progress, achievements and results throughout the project. Basically, monitoring means to collect data on the progress of a project and some predefined indicators and to compare the real-time project progress against the planned progress. The main goal is to be able to see if a project is going according to plan or if there is need for adjustments.
The main goals of monitoring are:
- To collect project data
- To check project progress
- To have accountability for resource used
- To have information usable for making decisions regarding the next phase in the project, evaluating the project and for future projects
Monitoring is an ongoing process throughout the lifespan of the project or program.
Evaluation is the second step in the approach, where the data collected during the monitoring process is analyzed and evaluated in order to determine if a project’s goal or aim was achieved or not. With the results of the evaluation process, project planners decide if an approach is worth repeating or up scaling of if adjustments have to be made. They will also be reported to the donor and other stakeholders to prove that resources have been used economically and successfully. A good evaluation strategy gives legitimacy to an organization and its projects.
While the specifics of a monitoring and evaluation plan differ from program to program, the basic set-up and operation is the same.
- Determine what exactly needs monitoring and evaluating.
- Define and agree on the performance indicators which will be used.
- Indicate the risks and assumptions inherent in the project.
- Take a baseline measurement using the indicators before the project begins.
- Continue monitoring through the project regularly.
- Use the collected information to make decisions and lastly, perform an evaluation.