Tip #1: Collaboration
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is often perceived as a chore by NGOs. In many organizations, staff are required to complete reams of forms on a daily basis above and beyond their normal (and heavy) work load, sometimes without understanding why. To add insult to injury the staff often see these burdensome and time-consuming forms disappear into the organization’s archives, out of sight and out of use. Often the only feedback programme staff receive is negative and takes the form of “Why is this file missing?” or “You’ve filled out this form incorrectly!” It is therefore no wonder NGOs often feel frustrated by M&E processes. This makes implementing or changing M&E systems a challenge for evaluators.
While some resistance is inevitable when developing or changing M&E systems, at Life Choices we have utilised some techniques to ensure greater buy-in form programme staff. In this three part blog article we will outline three broad techniques for improving staff buy-in, namely collaboration, feedback on data quality, and sharing M&E results.
When it comes to designing M&E forms that will be used by fieldworkers or completed by beneficiaries, it is important to collaborate with fieldworkers. They have a wealth of on-the-ground knowledge about the programme that M&E staff may not have; this should be respected and used to guide the development of any M&E system. For example, M&E staff may not able to tell whether the language contained within feedback forms is appropriate for beneficiaries and fieldworkers can give advice on this. They can also give input into how much time is realistically available to complete M&E forms on the job.
In 2015 Life Choices redesigned our HIV counselling and testing client record forms in a consultative process with fieldworkers. We asked “What do we need to report on to funders? Which items can be removed/added? Is there enough space/too little space to provide information?” Once a new form was drafted, staff were trained in the completion of this form and were given a few weeks to pilot them and make recommendations for changes. Without this collaboration with programme staff, there may have been resentment if the forms provided were not appropriate or user-friendly. Working in this way increased staff ownership of the forms and decreased the likelihood of them being completed incorrectly. Ultimately the quality of the data collected is improved, and in M&E we love good data!