Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) is critical for all organizations. The purpose of MEL practices and procedures is to apply knowledge gained from evidence and analysis of your programs to improve outcomes and ensure accountability. Before planning activities, it is important to set goals and objectives of what you are trying to achieve and identify what you need to know to ensure that the data you collect will help as you make decisions. Remember that MEL is not the end goal, but it will help keep your programs on track and continually improving.
Here are some MEL resources and tools:
- USAID MEL Toolkits: MEL and Collaborating, Learning and Adaptive (CLA) Toolkits from the USAID Learning Lab provide USAID staff and partners with the resources to plan, implement and integrate monitoring, evaluating and CLA-related practices into USAID programming.
- MEASURE Evaluation developed and applied a variety of tools to strengthen health information systems and improve decision making in the health sector.
- Better Evaluation: This web-based toolkit was developed to help program managers in New South Wales (Australia) government agencies manage evaluations (including those undertaken by internal or external evaluators, or by a combination of both).
You may find it helpful to partner with research institutions to develop robust M&E framework and activities for your programs.
Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting
In its work to integrate faith and health, CCIH strategic framework includes specific language about balancing faith and evidence in its work, along with a commitment to promote adaptive learning among members as part of evidence-based learning and stronger management.
Collaborating, Learning and Adapting and Enabling Conditions
- Collaborating: Are we collaborating with the right partners at the right time to promote synergy over stove-piping?
- Learning: Are we asking the most important questions and finding answers that are relevant to decision making?
- Adapting: Are we using the information that we gather through collaboration and learning activities to make better decisions and make adjustments as necessary?
- Enabling Conditions: Are we working in an organizational environment that supports our collaborating, learning, and adapting efforts?
Source: USAID Learning Lab, ND.
M&E and CLA: What is the Benefit?
CCIH members are familiar with M&E, which has been an important part of programming for decades as a means of measuring progress, generally with quantitative indicators, towards stated desired outcomes. Evaluation may consist of a baseline and endline survey, with monitoring conducted on a regular basis through measurement of a list of predetermined indicators to measure progress. Collaborating, learning, and adapting, as a complement to this type of M&E, adds a mindset that imbues all phases of programming with a focus on how programming is unfolding and making course corrections as needed. By including a range of stakeholders involved in implementation, CLA elicits input about implementation from various perspectives of a project or program and allows program managers to “see things through others’ eyes” to understand how a program or project is progressing (USAID Learning Lab, ND; MCGL CLA Toolkit, forthcoming). Within a faith-based context, CLA can also elicit feedback on implementation challenges faced by faith-based organizations and health facilities, and on the contribution faith actors bring to health programming. This perspective, not often captured in M&E, can help document the legacy of programs and projects that include faith actors.
While CLA relies on some of the same techniques, M&E is principally limited to accountability and justifying investments in programs, while CLA is inherently about planning for the future, either expansion of successful programs or adapting/adjusting programs. CCIH and its partners have to be accountable and justify our work, but the “storyline” of why we are doing this, how we think it makes a difference, and what evidence points to all help provide a rich story. CLA augments M&E by telling this story. CLA helps describe how our programs are expected to generate improvements, even if we don’t have quantitative measures for all items.
CLA Tools and Resources