Talk:Monitoring and Evaluation in the non-profit sector

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John Gray, 2010/1/15

I was asked the question today: what made the international development sector become better at monitoring and evaluation ("better" - meaning, in comparison to the voluntary and community sector in the UK, which I think has lots to learn about how to demonstrate effectiveness).

I didn't have an answer to the question. Do you? Can you remember a time when organisational learning was a new concept to international development organisations? A time when funders didn't insist on strict monitoring or on seeing an organisational learning strategy, and when it was possible to get away with not very good monitoring and evaluation... And if so, can you say what raised the profile of M and E within the sector - who led the change, what made the difference in the sector, were there any significant steps or collective experiences which heightened awareness and action?

With thanks and best wishes,


Jaap Pels, 2010/1/15

Rethinking Hydro‐Philanthropy: Smart Money for Transformative Impact

January 13, 2010 · 1 Comment

Full-text: Rethinking Hydro‐Philanthropy: Smart Money for Transformative Impact (pdf, 185KB)

Edward D Breslin, CEO, Water For People

Conclusion – People without improved water and sanitation services are not helped by bad programming, simplistic giving and a focus on short‐term results that counts beneficiaries immediately after implementation. Philanthropists can make a dramatic non‐financial contribution to people without safe water and hygienic sanitation by simply asking harder questions about how sustainability will be programmed for and measured, demanding long‐term results and requiring NGOs, and other development agencies to be held accountable over time as a condition before they invest in an NGO’s initiative. This means that monitoring will actually happen instead of being neglected by NGOs, and results over time will matter more than annual beneficiaries of new services.

The NGO sector will respond to this because NGOs are filled with tremendously smart and dedicated professionals who are currently responding to the philanthropic market. More investment in water and sanitation interventions without dramatically different results and metrics should no longer be accepted.

If philanthropists and NGOs spoke frankly and honestly about what needs to change to alter the dysfunctional philanthropic market and unsustainable programming that currently exists, in a way that focuses on smart investments and accountability for sustainable outcomes, then we really can eliminate water and sanitation poverty worldwide and truly transform lives forever. And that would be a great story indeed!

Nadejda Loumbeva, 2010/1/15

Thanks John for the question and Jaap for the response ... Here is another perspective:

This one is interesting in that it is not entirely pro M&E in the non-profit sector, at least not in the sense of an overly focus on metrics without a clear understanding as to why we need them. Ie, the point is that there is the need to understand that M&E is a tool to get somewhere, not an end in itself.

Thanks for your posts! Nadejda

Sebastiao Ferreira, 2010/1/15


In the line of thoughts of Nadejda, I wonder if projects can have a learning dimension not aligned with M&E. Recently, I did some exercises to support learning from experience using the approaches of Action-Research and Collaborative Inquiry and the results were promising. An important advantage of action-research is its independence from the management cycle of the project and a higher level of freedom for thinking. If you explore this let me know.

Spirit and Opportunity Sebastiao Mendonça Ferreira

Valerie Brown, 2010/1/15

"M&E is a tool to get somewhere, not an end in itself" points to the crux of M&E of knowledge sharing: As part of the M&E process itself, who commissions the tool, who has designed it with what values and who conducts it as central to the learning as any metrics. Approaching the M&E of programs as collective learning, I have found the first step is find answers to those questions. Many a commissioning agency has been somewhat surprised to find themselves part of the process! Valerie Brown

Peter J. Bury, 2010/1/16

What a relief so see the term M&E being used again, instead of the totally unaffordable and unrealistic 'impact assessment'.


Joitske Hulsebosch, 2010/1/16

In addition to Nadejda's resource: Here's a great article by Esther Mebrahtu, very recognisable! It shows that the development sector may lead in doing M&E but this has downsides too. You can download it from:

The articles looks at how M&E works out at various hierarchical levels in INGOs, from headquarters to field level. There is a great example of a worker at field level keeping a great log with his or her work data and impressions (asked to do so) and then nobody reads it, asks for it or is interested! To me effective M&E is about connecting the various levels- this persons holds a lot of knowledge and keys to new insights.

The official introduction of the paper: "The study explores how respondents in head offices, Addis Ababa, and field offices perceive and practise M&E. It was found that perceptions of M&E vary considerably between hierarchical levels and can have a significant impact on practice. Such perceptions are also framed by individual interests and thus frequently fail to reflect the reality of M&E practice. The story that unfolds offers valuable insights into the current myths and realities of M&E among INGOs."


John Gray, 2010/1/20

Many thanks for all the fantastic responses so far. I will read them all with pleasure - and if there's a consistent thread emerging, I'll try and feed back to the list in some way.

With best wishes,


John Gray Framework

I blog at

If you'd like to find out more about Framework, and what we do, or about Framework Community, please visit our website at the address below.

Lucie Lamoureux, 2010/1/20

Thanks John! It would be great if you could document the emerging thread in the KM4dev wiki Community knowledge base as well (wink-wink-nudge-nudge :-)). If you would like a username and password, just drop me a line and I'll sort you out.

BTW folks, this is my new year resolution, i.e. to subtly bagger people to help feed the Community knowledge base (just so you know I'm not just picking on you, John :-p).

Best, Lucie

John Gray, 2010/2/2

Many thanks for all your responses. Much of the links and material focuses on why organisations should become better at learning from their experience, and what the common barriers are.

I'm happy to let the thread finish here; but I might say that so far my original question hasn't yet been answered. This is probably because I didn't phrase it clearly. I think I would now pose my question as:

Has the story ever been told of how the international development sector reached its current awareness of the theory and practice of monitoring and evaluation? Does the story reveal what helped and supported the sector along the way, which might help other sectors wanting to make a similar journey?

No pressure for anyone to respond! A positive outcome - getting better questions - has already been reached...

With best wishes,


Peter J. Bury, 2010/2/8

In this context my plea is to stop talking about the incredibly arrogant claim that development collaboration can achieve any measurable and attributable IMPACT!

Lets talk about the good old monitoring and evaluation, about trying to measure efficiency and effectiveness and certainly NOT WASTE OUR TIME AND MONEY FOR DEVELOPMENT on expensive, unaffordable and pointless IMPACT measurement.

Thanks! I'm happy to RESTART a discussion on this!

Peter J. Bury IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre