RE: How do we move forward on Evaluation Systems in the Agriculture Sector? | Eval Forward

Hello Judith,

Thanks for sharing this topic to get reflections and insights from other countries. Below are my two cents (being Rwandan but practising M&E elsewhere):

I usually use a car dashboard to illustrate the twinned nature of Monitoring and Evaluation. A functional Monitoring system feeds into Evaluation system. A functional Evaluation system in turn feeds into Monitoring processes.

As a control panel for tracking progress and the conditions of a car, a functional dashboard shows the conditions of the car. The driver needs to keep tracking or checking progress to reach the destination. Imagine driving a car without a dashboard! Strange, risky, accident-prone, etc.

The driver uses the same dashboard to evaluate and decide when to see the mechanic, stop by a petrol station to refuel or for additional tyre pressure. Sometimes, the driver (i.e. project manager) can by himself take corrective measures from their experience and knowledge of the car system (i.e. project). This is equivalent to using monitoring data or process evaluation to fix issues. Using monitoring results, the driver (or project manager) may learn a lesson here and there to keep the car running (or the project) on the right track.

But in the end, there are technical issues beyond the driver's (or the project/program manager's) control. In such as case, the driver needs to service the car or seek technical expertise for informed guidance. When it is beyond the driver's control, we are talking about change (outcome or impact level). At this level, we need fresher eyes to add a new perspective to the way we have been seeing the conditions of our car. We need evaluation to be on the safer side, more objective, closer to the desired outcome.

Monitoring system is about low hanging fruits, that is why most organizations and countries alike find it easy to set it up. Evaluation is technically demanding and it is the ultimate goal of proper monitoring. We monitor to ensure we achieve process results (under our control). We evaluate to prove or disprove we reached expected change-level results (beyond our control). Monitoring is limited to "vanity indicators" (a term from colleague on social media) such as numbers trained, kgs distributed, etc. Without Evaluation system, what works or does not work would not logically and objectively be identified with evidence. True change would not be rewarded by scaling up or replicating successful projects, etc. Without evaluation system, we fail or succeed without our knowledge and we can't be proud it it.

Having Monitoring system is like having institutional capacity or meeting institutional requirements so that we are able to report to xyz. But having Evaluation system is like having human capacity, expertise required to navigate complex development landscape so that what works is kept. What does it mean to M&E in practice? Let me save this for another day.

Looking forward to more reflections from other countries.

With kind regards,

Jean Providence