15.1.1 What is M&E?

Programmes, projects and other interventions can be described in five stages, as shown in Figure 15.1. The inputs, on the left, are the resources (funding, equipment, personnel) and activities that are undertaken. The results, on the right, are the outputs, outcomes and impacts (see Box 15.1).

Figure 15.1 Five-stage model of a programme.

An effective M&E system measures the inputs, outputs, outcomes and impacts resulting from implementation of a programme. To provide useful knowledge these results need to be compared with the situation before the programme started, which requires baseline data. Baseline data gives information about the situation at the start of an intervention (the baseline position) and provides a point of comparison against which future data, collected as part of a monitoring process, can be compared. Progress can be evaluated by comparing the two.

Box 15.1 Outputs, outcomes and impacts

There are several words used in M&E that can be confused. They sound similar but have important differences in their meaning.

  • Outputs – the things produced by the project/programme/intervention. In sanitation and waste management, examples could include tangible products like new latrines or waste transfer stations or could be events and activities like running a training workshop for composting workers.
  • Outcomes – the effects of the intervention, usually in the short to medium term. Some examples, following those above, could be the number of people in a kebele who now have access to improved sanitation or the number of people attending the training workshop.
  • Impacts – long-term effects and consequences. Examples could be a fall in the incidence of diarrhoeal disease or a reduction in the amount of waste sent to landfill.

It’s very important to plan monitoring activities during the earliest stages of project development — they should be integrated into project activities and not be added on as an afterthought. Monitoring requires regular and timely feedback in the form of reports from implementers to project managers so they can keep track of progress. These reports provide information about activities and what has been achieved in terms of outputs. They also include financial reports that give information on budgets and expenditure. With this information, managers can assess progress and plan the next steps for their project.

15.1 Introduction to monitoring and evaluation

15.1.2 Why is M&E so important?