Monitoring and Evaluation Report

April 2008

To: Members of the Global Board of Directors
From: John Coonrod, Vice President and COO

A top priority of The Hunger Project in this era of scale-up is to put in place a world-class system of monitoring and evaluation that is consistent with our empowerment-based methodology.

Last year, we reported on our new web-based monitoring system which has initially focused on data collection in Africa, pioneering steps in Bangladesh to establish “people’s researchers” among the poorest of the poor, and the Robertson-funded Yale/Berkeley/University of Ghana ten-year study of our scale-up in Ghana (referred to below as the “Yale study”).

Where—in short—most of the action last year was focused on Africa, the focus has now turned to South Asia and Mexico.

During the past six months, we’ve upgraded our monitoring system through the following actions:

  • We met with all country directors, who identified and committed to the immediate-term priorities for data collection
  • We hired and trained a global office staff member devoted full-time to this work, Ashley LeBlanc.
  • Ashley has made major improvements in the “useability” of our web-based monitoring system.
  • Two top priorities in the on-line system in this period have included:

    Cleaning up any inconsistencies and integrating the past five years of data from Bangladesh;

    andDesigning and implementing a monitoring system consistent with our new decentralized strategy in Mexico.
  • We made specialized adaptations of the Africa microfinance system to accommodate specific needs in various of our African countries.
  • We “unveiled” our system to the Yale team, and identified data collection and display priorities needed to support their work.

As part of Jill Lester’s “First 100 day” visits, we held meetings that produced needed conceptual breakthroughs in devising M&E approaches for our South Asia programs:

  • India has been the one country where we had not identified a viable M&E approach that was consistent with our strategy—and now we have. On the trip, we met with the leaders of our major partner NGOs and created an entirely new approach based on the constitutionally-mandated mechanism for people to hold local government to account: the gram sabha (village assembly). By recording the commitments, priorities, achievements and role of women’s leadership expressed in these public meetings where we’ve trained the women representatives—and in some panchayats where we’re not working—we can measure our impact in a way which will actually strengthen the local democracy system.
  • Our team in India has additionally completed a professionally conducted evaluation of the process of federation building in Rajasthan and was part of the design and implementation of a massive India-wide evaluation of progress achieved as a result of decentralization.
  • Bangladesh has developed and pilot-tested a new system based on the skills of our large team of trained animators. Clusters of villages in Bangladesh are called “unions” and are broken down into nine wards and each ward is broken into five or six “paras” of 40 households. We have more than 100 animators in each union who—after a half-day orientation—have successfully conducted survey meetings in every para, gaining baseline information reflecting every household in the union. The pilot test has been completed in three unions, and our plan is to conduct these surveys initially in 30 unions and—ultimately—in all the unions where we work.
  • Also in Bangladesh, we have confronted the challenge of “monitoring what we do” rather than distorting what we do to match what we can measure. Our development activities in each union vary greatly depending on the priorities of that union, and most of these actions are carried out through campaigns—a given union may conduct ten campaigns per year. Rather than continue to estimate a broad range of social indicators, we are going to create a system that tracks the campaigns and priorities set by the unions themselves, and have a directly measurable outcome for every campaign being launched.

The challenges immediately ahead of us now are:

Implementing these new M&E programs in India and Bangladesh;

Moving forward on the programs already established for Africa, including reviewing the appropriateness and consistency of the data; and

Focusing more attention on analysis of data—ensuring that we are well set up to translate collected data into the kind of compelling conclusions that will influence policy makers.

By the end of the year, we are confident that our data collection in all countries will be well underway with all teething problems ironed out. This will put us in a strong position by the start of next year to implement the cutting-edge evaluation methodologies that we are currently developing.