Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation
As an organization grounded in grassroots advocacy and international development from the bottom up, The Hunger Project takes a different approach to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that empowers participants in our programs as both collectors and consumers of data, through participatory monitoring and evaluation methods. The goal of our participatory M&E system is to recognize what works, what does not work, and why, and create a feedback loop that directly connects our project performance with community expectations and goals. The Hunger Project’s Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM&E) system is designed to:
- Support community partners with the information and tools required to identify needs, set priorities and track progress of community development projects;
- Promote organizational learning by enabling Hunger Project staff and partner organizations to continuously monitor and improve our programs;
- Promote accountability and transparency within the organization and among partners and investors;
- Provide evidence needed to influence policymakers and other thought leaders to adopt The Hunger Project’s proven approaches to our bottom-up, gender-focused development.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM&E) is designed to recognize and include communities as important stakeholders in data collection and evaluation. It expands the notion of accountability to answer not only whether organizations are fulfilling the terms of the funding they receive, but also whether they are fulfilling the needs and goals of the communities they serve. PM&E requires including community voices in monitoring and evaluation, and building the capacity of community members to become active partners in this process.
CAPACITY BUILDING: TRAINING COMMUNITIES IN DATA COLLECTION
In many of our programs, volunteer community members (called “animators” in Africa and “catalysts” in Mexico) are trained in data collection strategies such as monitoring and evaluation tools, reporting requirements, and participatory action research. These animators and catalysts are then responsible for data collection in their communities. In some African countries, animators are involved in outcome evaluations, including household surveys aiming to measure not only the progress but also the results of The Hunger Project’s activities. In Mexico, catalysts are also involved in collecting survey data. Elected Women Representatives in India are trained to track progress in their crèche centers, which offer nursery schools and health clinics. Our animators and catalysts serve as the link between community members and The Hunger Project – they are the mechanism for the feedback loop of information running from communities to The Hunger Project, and back from The Hunger Project to the communities.
TRANSPARENCY: EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES TO PARTICIPATE
An essential part of PM&E is to share the data collected with communities, which promotes transparency and accountability between staff, communities, and investors. This community-led, informed analysis of results allows community members to identify their needs, set their own development priorities, and participate in tracking their progress on these goals over time.
M&E data is brought back to communities at several stages. In our Africa Program Countries, communities hold meetings one to four times per year where M&E Animators report to their communities on activities over the previous three months. “General assemblies” are held every year in program communities as well. These meetings are open to all community members, and during these sessions M&E Animators report on the year’s progress against the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the year. Participants use this information to discuss and assess the year’s performance, and set targets for the upcoming year. During “Community Data Presentations”, the results from outcome evaluations are presented to community members.
“Transparency Boards” in Africa and Bangladesh post information on the planning, performance, and financial status of activities on a central building in the community. This is a powerful tool for accountability, empowering community members to follow up with leaders at any time regarding their concerns and allowing them to arrive at quarterly and annual meetings already armed with information.
In Bangladesh, Participatory Action and Research builds the capacity of underprivileged and marginalized groups to conduct research on the causes of their poverty as well as identify resources and opportunities available in their communities. Community members are empowered to advocate for themselves to have their concerns addressed by local government institutions. Through this method, these can participate in their own development and hold the local government accountable and responsive to provide improved services to them and to create linkages within the community.
These PM&E approaches can be powerful tools for change, when put in the hands of communities. The ability of communities to understand what activities or programs are in progress, determine whether or not they are successful, and make course corrections is critical to the long-term sustainability of locally driven development. These tools can be used to plan and implement communities’ own initiatives, to hold organizations accountable for their activities in the locality, and to hold public authorities responsible for the provision of programs or services.