M&E approaches and options

Digital tools for M&E

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Aim of the tool 
There are some differences between the various kinds of digital tools out there, but in general, they aim to facilitate collaborative data collection, analysis, visualisation and/or sharing. 

When to use it? 
These tools may be especially useful when project staff and stakeholders are spread across the world. 

Tool for thought or tool for action? 
Tool for thought and for action

Theory-based approaches for causal inference

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According to Birckmayer and Weiss (2000: 407), theory-based evaluation ‘explores the how and why of program success or failure’.

Randomised controlled trial

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Aim of the tool
RCTs analyse what difference a programme makes by comparing those in the programme to a control group that does not have access to the programme

When to use it?
This tool is useful at the beginning of an intervention. It can also be used for evaluation purposes

Realistic evaluation

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Aim of the tool
Realistic evaluation tries to integrate the concept of mechanism into the identification of programme theory to increases the depth of the analysis. In addition values are a part of realistic evaluation.

When to use it?
This tool is useful at the beginning of an intervention but can also be used for evaluation purpose.

Outcome mapping

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Aim of the tool
Outcome mapping (OM) is a methodology for planning, monitoring and evaluating development initiatives in order to bring about sustainable social change.

When to use it?
OM can provide a set of tools that can be used stand-alone or in combination with other planning, monitoring and evaluation systems, if you want to:

  • Identify individuals, groups or organisations with whom you will work directly to influence behavioral change. 
  • Plan and monitor behavioral change and the strategies to support those changes. 
  • Monitor internal practices of the project or program to remain effective. 
  • Create an evaluation framework to examine more precisely a particular issue.

Most significant change

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Aim of the tool
The Most Significant Change (MSC) technique focusses on the collection and systematic analysis of significant changes

When to use it?
MSC can be especially useful in programs that are:

  • complex and produce diverse and emergent outcomes
  • large with numerous organisational layers
  • focused on social change
  • participatory in ethos
  • designed with repeated contact between field staff and participants
  • struggling with conventional monitoring systems
  • highly customised services to a small number of beneficiaries (such as family counselling).

Institutional histories

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Aim of the tool

  • To record key points about how institutional arrangements (new ways of working) have evolved over time and have created and contributed to more effective ways to achieve project or programme goals. 
  • To intentionally introduce institutional factors into the legitimate narrative of success and failure in research organisations.

When to use it?
Institutional history (IH) is useful to document institutional innovations in projects and to highlight barriers to change.

Collaborative outcomes reporting

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Aim of the tool
Collaborative Outcomes Reporting (COR) is a participatory approach to impact evaluation based around a performance story that presents evidence of how a programme has contributed to outcomes and impacts. That is then reviewed by both technical experts and programme stakeholders, which may include community members.

When to use it?
COR is especially useful when a programme has emergent or complex outcomes that are not fully defined at the onset of a programme. For this reason a program logic is refreshed at the start of the evaluation process. In addition qualitative inquiry is used to capture unexpected outcomes and deliberative processes are used to make sense of the findings. COR is useful for both internal and external evaluations and learning.

Case study

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Aim of the tool
To understand how different elements fit together and how factors, such as implementation and context, have produced the observed impacts.

When to use it?
This tool is useful for evaluation purposes. Case studies can be used in all types of evaluation (ex-ante, intermediary and ex-post). In practice, however, implementation can be difficult in ex-ante evaluations which have to be conducted rapidly. Usually, only exploratory case studies can be adapted to ex-ante evaluations.

Participatory assessment of development (PADev)

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Aim of the tool
An inclusive approach that aims to add both context and depth to a bottom-up assessment of development and change by building up a big picture of development and change in an area over time.

When to use it?
This tool is useful for ex-post assessments, and has potential for use in the development of community action plans.