Good monitoring and evaluation can help identify when and how an organization is accomplishing its social goals. This is vital at varying points along the life cycle of a program, to not only ensure the delivery of outcomes, but also, through evidence-based approach, maximise the opportunity a programme presents to make a difference.
In this article, Shilpi Gupta, Manager (Programme Research) at ACF, shares 5 ways that ACF measures programme impact as a key facet in improving programmes, and providing accountability to key stakeholders.
"The primary purpose of monitoring and evaluation for any organization is programme improvement." Shilpi Gupta said. "Whilst it also plays a pivotal role in reporting and accountability, and providing important data to share with partners/prospects, the key aims is to help you to lift the quality and outcomes of your programmes, in a systematic, evidence based way," She said.
"Having worked for over 25 years in rural development, ACF has embraced 5 strategic tools for measurement and evaluation across a programme journey to effectively identify areas of impact and areas for programme improvement" said Ms Gupta.
1. Needs Assessment
"Whenever we initiate a new project, we need to understand the needs of the community to understand what intervention we need to prioritise and implement." Shilpi said. The community has needs and also wants - it is important to identify these and prioritise community needs.
A key tool ACF uses to assess needs, is to interact with the community with which they are going to work. The interaction is in form of individual and group meetings. ACF also conducts baseline study to conduct need assessment where quantitative data is collected by drawing a systematic sample using pre-coded questionnaires and qualitative data is collected in form of focus group discussions with the stakeholders and in-depth key informant interviews with the leaders of the community. The baseline study is valuable in order to assess the change made in a community once a programme is complete or an Impact Evaluation is conducted.
2. Input & Output Based Monitoring
Outcomes evaluation looks at programmes as systems that have inputs, activities/processes, outputs and outcomes - this system's view is useful in examining any programme.
According to Shilpi Gupta, for all programmes a framework is made where we decide what inputs and outputs we will focus on. To identify if a programme is on the right track we monitor those elements with Field Staff capturing key information to measure inputs and outputs for each programme as it is being delivered. Additionally we conduct outcome monitoring.
"For example, in the case of a sanitation programme, we assess inputs (like facilitation, financial investment, capacity building, management of stakeholders) along with outputs (like the number of toilets constructed, number of people using them). However if we do not achieve the identified outcome (are people actually using the toilet) then the programme is of limited benefit to the community" Ms Gupta said.
3. Midcourse Assessment
If you have a 3 year project, a midcourse assessment is conducted after 1.5 years to assess whether the programme is on the right track to achieve the intended outcomes of the programme. If the assessment finds that the programme is not on the right track, there is still time to course correct. ACF programme teams assess the key indicators, as identified at the start of the programme and qualitative & quantitative information. The assessment differs for each programme according to the objectives and indicators set out at the beginning of the programme.
4. Programme Review
"Periodically, ACF conducts a rigorous, systematic, objective and expert-based review to understand how effectively the program is working, and if it is serving the purpose as intended at the commencement of programme." Shilpi said. This is conducted with the programme team members and experts as an internalexercise.
5. Impact Evaluation
The last step in the programme measurement journey is Impact Evaluation. "At ACF, a study is conducted at the end of programme to review the change, post programme implementation, in accordance the baseline study that was conducted at the beginning." She said.
"This enables us to measure and quantify the change that was made - the impact made in the community from the programme. Social Return on Investment (SROI) is sometimes chosen as an Impact Evaluation tool and according to the programme, ACF chooses to conduct an SROI as an outside measurement and validation of programme impact.