We at OneVillage Partners have introduced an updated mission, vision and values as part of our 2019-2021 strategic plan; these values drive our work, including our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) strategy and practices. OneVillage Partners aims to be a community-led, disciplined, sustainable, and equitable organization. The results we obtain from monitoring and evaluating our programs inform necessary programmatic updates so that we can continue to stay true to our values. While we have a strong history of participatory strategies, we are always looking for ways to improve the community-led aspect of M&E. Recently, we focused on one component of our M&E strategy, project monitoring, and piloted a training update informed by our new values.
The Community Action Program supports communities to identify, design, implement, and monitor projects that address their felt needs. There is a comprehensive mixed-methods M&E strategy (meaning both the qualitative and quantitative data) to assess this program, but we focused on project monitoring in the pilot. After a project has been completed, a group of OneVillage Partners-trained volunteers, the Community Action Group, monitor the project. Due to the limited literacy ability of the majority of the volunteers, picture-based monitoring workbooks are used to collect data. Each project tracks five to six indicators which are customized based on the project’s objectives. For example, if a community has a project objective of child access to latrines, a corresponding indicatorcould be the number of households where a child can show the volunteer the keys to open their latrine. Each indicator has a target the community works towards; most aim for a minimum of 75% of households to achieve each indicator. Data are collected through household surveys and observation on a routine basis; after data collection, the results are presented to the community to show progress and also areas where they can still improve.
The M&E and Community Action Program departments worked together to design and implement a strategy to make project monitoring more community-led. Community Action Groupvolunteers have always worked collaboratively with our staff to create project objectives, but for project monitoring, the staff defined the indicators because of their complexity. The goal of the pilot was to figure out the best way to support volunteers to create their own indicators and set realistic targets. In addition to making the process more community-led, the volunteer creation of indicators builds their capacity and further iterates how monitoring data is a measurement of project success. The team first revised existing monitoring sessions in the training manual, introducing new content aimed to simplify the process of indicator creation and make it more volunteer-led. The M&E and Community Action Program departments collaboratively finalized these updates and implemented the pilot in two communities. Daily debriefs after the pilot sessions led to further improvements throughout the process.
Throughout the pilot implementation the team learned many lessons. During the discussion of what monitoring is, our staff improved on the examples in the curriculum to make them more situationally relevant. For example, in the curriculum there was an example of a parent using their child’s grades to monitor their progress towards the goal of receiving a good education. While this is a part of most volunteers daily lives, an example related to farming or mining seemed to better increase understanding of monitoring. Additionally, the team learned that target setting was challenging for volunteers. Originally, percentages were used to set targets, but due to the limited numeracy of the volunteers, a switch was made to set targets based on the number of households in a community. For example, instead of choosing a target of 90% of households reporting handwashing, the volunteers set a target of 90 households out of a community with a total size of 100 households. Finally, the curriculum updates added to the length of the session and adjustments will need to be made to ensure that volunteers are not kept in training for inordinate amounts of time. These lessons learned will be incorporated into the updated training curriculum.
The pilot led to many positive outcomes. First and foremost, during the pilot Community Action Group volunteers successfully created their own project indicators and corresponding targets for the first time at OneVillage Partners. Volunteers had new ideas for indicators and their input at this stage of the process will make the results feedback to the larger community more relevant. We plan to make final adjustments to the Community Action Program guide and scale up the revised project monitoring approach to all active communities in 2019. We will continue to look for additional ways to make M&E more community-led; we learned a valuable lesson that just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. The improved project monitoring strategy continues our tradition of being people-centered in the way we engage villages on a wide variety of project work, no matter the challenges the approach may present.
Author: Christina Bowles, Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Manager
MAXQDA, a software for qualitative and mixed methods research, hosted a contest for organizations to submit photographs picturing researchers in the field, interview participants, teamwork, and workspaces. Our photograph of sharing M&E results with the community was chosen as one of five winners! Take a look.