• Sanjukta Moorthy

What is Monitoring? (The M in PMEL)

So what exactly is monitoring?

I like the abbreviation PMEL because it illustrates the cycle of planning, monitoring, evaluating, and learning from our work. I've found it's the most thorough process to ensure our programmes are meaningful to the people we work with and impactful.

Monitoring is the second step, and just like planning, you can monitor:

  • a one-year project

  • a longer-term project

  • a programme (collection of projects with a longer-term goal, such as your organisation's education programme. These are sometimes called portfolios)

  • your organisation's work as a whole

  • your strategic approach to target the needs of your communities

  • your national or regional context

  • the work of your organisation and partners, or a consortium

  • your context or field, which includes everyone from the people you work with, to your NGO partners, to your donor (sometimes this is called a situation analysis)

[In these blog posts, I use the word 'project' to talk about your work. But as you can see above, you can use all of these PMEL techniques from short-term projects to your organisation's strategic approach! Just substitute the relevant word for your needs]

Monitoring is the most compliance-related element of this four-step plan, where you use data collection and analysis to review your project's progress. Monitoring is done regularly and systematically and often follows a plan that's agreed upon during the planning phase of your work. You're essentially doing quality assurance on your work, your project, your communities, and yourself as an organisation.

It's often done by your internal team rather than your communities, partners, or donors. Many organisations monitor their work to report their progress to donors, but I encourage all my clients to monitor their work at all times, on multiple levels. Monitoring can help you learn so much - about your organisational strengths, the needs of your communities, your partners' work, as well as the project you're implementing.

Because of its wide applications, there are many types of monitoring activities.

  1. Process or performance monitoring: most often of the activities in your project, including whether and how well they were implemented.

  2. Results or impact monitoring: the changes that the activities or work you've implemented has led to. This contributes to your outcomes analysis and can help you trace your contributions to impact.

  3. Community monitoring: This can be done during a site visit. For example, where you survey the communities you're working with to learn about how the activities or project progresses from their perspective. This is one of the most important feedback loops in a strong project. Ignore it at your peril!

  4. Situation analysis/monitoring: done throughout the project and should be done at all times, so you are always aware of the social, political, and economic environments you work in.

  5. Financial monitoring: for the project's budget, and is therefore often done with your budget or grants officer.

  6. Administrative monitoring: includes tracking the allocation and use of your resources. In a service delivery project, this is a crucial element to focus on for your overall monitoring to ensure you are meeting the needs of your project while also being efficient.

Monitoring helps you ensure your work is progressing according to your plan and is an important step for you to learn about the outcomes and impact of your work. By monitoring your situation and discussing your work with communities, you can investigate your contributions to change regularly. If this data analysis is also agile and flexible, you can adapt your project while implementing it to best meet your communities' needs.

All of this relies on a strong M&E system and framework, which I can help you build. I work with each member of your team to discuss the needs of your M&E and your donor and work within your existing processes and organisational culture. This means that the framework I create for you is realistic and will work for your specific needs and interests. Get in touch to find out more!

Monitoring can therefore help you to:

  • learn from your experiences

  • find out whether your Theory of Change, key assumptions, and project plan is realistic and relevant

  • interrogate your hypotheses and assumptions at regular intervals, using data

  • use a mixed methods data analysis framework to gather a wide range of information about your work and its impact

  • make informed decisions on the project based on the data you gather

  • adapt the project to meet the needs of your communities or to achieve the results planned more effectively