15.1.1 What is monitoring?
Monitoring is systematic, timely and purposeful observation and data collection to check if project activities are being implemented as planned. More precisely, monitoring assesses project activities to establish what activities are being done, and where, with whom, when and how many have been completed. Box 15.1 explains some of the key terms that are used when discussing monitoring and evaluation.
Box 15.1 Key terms in monitoring and evaluation
Outputs are the things produced by a project or programme. In WASH, examples include tangible products like new or rehabilitated wells and pumps, new latrines and training manuals; they could be events and activities like running a training workshop for frontline workers, or producing hygiene promotion posters.
Outcomes are the effects of the outputs, usually in the short- to medium-term. Examples, following those above, could be the number of people who now have access to safe water as a result of the new water schemes or attendance at the training workshop.
Impacts are long-term effects and consequences. Examples could be a fall in the incidence of diarrhoeal disease, improved school attendance, or pumps that last longer because they are well-maintained.
An indicator is something that can be seen or measured or counted, which provides evidence of progress towards a target. Indicators are used to monitor or evaluate project performance. They are project-specific and defined by the objectives of the project. They can be based on either quantitative or qualitative measurements.
Monitoring is used to track changes in project performance over time against measurable indicators defined well in advance. It involves collecting data and tracking actions being taken in order to measure progress towards the goals and to identify any problems. For any particular activity, the output, the outcome and the process should all be monitored.
The purpose of monitoring is to permit managers to make informed decisions regarding the implementation and performance of projects and the efficient use of resources. Monitoring is often done internally by project managers or by dedicated project monitoring staff. It involves a continuous process of checking, analysing and giving feedback into project activity and resource allocation plans.
One well-known example of an international monitoring programme is the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. This is a global monitoring programme for the WASH sector that annually collects and publishes data on a range of indicators for countries all over the world (JMP, 2014). At national level in Ethiopia, the National WASH Inventory is a monitoring system that collects data on water supply in urban and rural areas, sanitation and hygiene practices of households, and the status of water supply and sanitation facilities at health institutions and schools (Pratt, 2015).