1.4.5. Monitoring and Evaluation - Overview

What is Monitoring and Evaluation?

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E)—one of the five phases of the project cycle—consists of two basic components: performance monitoring and evaluation (see table below). Monitoring and evaluation serve distinct purposes.

Performance monitoring involves the tracking of project outputs and outcomes as indicators of project effectiveness, or the extent to which the project achieves its stated objectives. Performance monitoring is primarily a management tool. It is akin to a roadmap that provides information indicating whether the project is on the right road to its intended destination (or intended impact) and, if not, how to get back on to the right road. Performance monitoring does not (indeed cannot) tell the project whether it has arrived at its final destination. For this, a statistically valid control group is required, and few performance monitoring systems include a valid control group. Performance monitoring tends to focus on outputs and outcomes (the left-hand side of the causal chain) and on those indicators that are easier to capture and measure on an on-going basis (see figure below).

Components of Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring Evaluation
Performance Monitoring: The tracking of project outputs and outcomes as indicators of project effectiveness. Project Evaluation: The evaluation of project implementation as measured against the project's scope of work, deliverables, personnel requirements, etc. Not intended to attribute impact to project operations.

Impact Assessment: Analysis of whether project objectives (outcomes and impacts) were achieved and can be attributed to project operations. Requires a counterfactual.

Evaluation in turn consists of project evaluation and impact assessment. Project evaluation refers to an evaluation of project implementation, as measured against the project’s scope of work, deliverables, personnel requirements, and so forth. Project evaluations may include a baseline and follow-up but typically include a single observation point, often at or near the end of the project.

Project evaluations may also include an assessment of project effectiveness, but like performance monitoring, do not include a valid control group and thus cannot be used to attribute outcomes or impacts to project operations. Project evaluations, nonetheless, can produce useful findings on project operations, and if designed and timed appropriately, can be used to guide management decision-making. End (or near end)-of-project evaluations, however, tend to be useful primarily for external stakeholders.

Like performance monitoring, project evaluation tends to focus on the left-hand side of the causal chain, although often with a heavier emphasis on project activities and the organizational structures, policies, systems, and day-to-day operations that drive project results. A specific type of project evaluation is the so-called "process evaluation," which assesses whether the project was implemented--including the procedures undertaken, the decisions made, and the services delivered--as intended. By documenting the project's development and operation, the process evaluation uncovers reasons for successful or unsuccessful performance, and provides information for potential replication.

Impact assessment is an evaluation whose purpose is specifically to attribute outcomes and impacts to project operations.


The causal chain of program activities involves outputs to outcomes to, finally, impacts.


What is the Role of the Causal Model in Performance Monitoring and Impact Assessment?

All value chain development projects are based on a causal model showing the causal (or logical) links between project activities and expected outputs, outcomes and impacts. Underlying the links in the causal model is a set of theorized causal relationships that project designers believe to be true. The importance of the causal model for performance monitoring and impact assessment is that it forces project administrators and evaluators to articulate the critical causal relationships underlying project design and evaluate the degree to which they make sense and/or are justified.

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