Monitoring and evaluation: the basics

What does monitoring and evaluation mean? Monitoring is the routine and systematic collection of information against a plan. The information might be about activities, products or services, users, or about outside factors affecting the organisation or project. Evaluation is about making judgements about the value of any component part of an organisation or its products, services or benefits, or about the organisation as a whole. There are other key monitoring and evaluation terms, which are often used by funders when they require monitoring and evaluation information. Why is monitoring and evaluation important? Organisations use monitoring and evaluation for two key purposes: to learn about their own activities and results, and to support internal planning and development to be accountable to their stakeholders. Organisations need evidence of their efficiency and effectiveness for funders, commissioners and investors. They also need to communicate achievements to a wider public. Charities are now specifically required by SORP to report the achievements of the charity over the year. However, the role of monitoring and evaluation in providing learning and in improving the organisation is of equal importance.  The monitoring and evaluation cycle There are four key phases in the monitoring and evaluation cycle: planning for monitoring and evaluation monitoring evaluation using the findings to learn and improve. Description of the diagram The four stages of monitoring and evaluation – planning, monitoring, evaluation, using the findings – are represented as a continuous cycle. Useful links The Charities Evaluation Services have lots of good quality guidance and free resources on monitoring and evaluation Community Evaluation Northern Ireland is a good source of information, advice, research and development. Evaluation Support Scotland works with voluntary organisations and funders in Scotland so that they can measure the impact of their work. Evaluation Trust – a community development agency that helps with capacity building MandE News is a news service focusing on developments in monitoring and evaluation methods UK Evaluation Society – a membership organisation that aims to promote and improve the theory, practice, understanding and utilisation of evaluation The New Economics Foundation – an independent think tank INTRAC – training, consultancy and research services. Further reading Read the Accountability and Learning: Developing Monitoring and Evaluation in the Third Sector briefing report on research on monitoring and evaluation in the third sector. Practical Monitoring and Evaluation: a guide for voluntary organisations (CES).

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