During IRC’s Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium, Cor Dietvorst asked eleven Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialists three questions: why is monitoring is important, how are you monitoring now and how do you see monitoring in the future. He blogged about it here
The interviews provide an interesting range of experiences about what is happening in the field of WASH monitoring at project and sector level. There are many different purposes and incentives for monitoring and for using the monitoring data. To name a few, monitoring can be used for measuring performance, for learning, accountability to financiers or users/ beneficiaries and for improving sustainability of services.
Cor concludes from the interviews: “We see a shift towards post-project monitoring and monitoring of outcomes and impacts. Information and communication technology (ICT) will play a prominent role in future monitoring efforts but we should not forget that we need competent people to make sense of all the data“.
Exploring the links between monitoring, sector capacities and learning
Next week, IRC is organizing a session at the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development focusing on the (potential) links between monitoring, capacities and learning. In preparation, I have been reading about monitoring and thinking about the links between monitoring and learning. One of the articles I came across was a case study from Cuba about integrating learning and change in the monitoring and evaluation of development projects.
One of the main challenges the author, Camacho Tuckerman, describes is that project managers and team members initially had a difficult time using the monitoring and evaluation process to encourage learning and change. Instead it was viewed as a control and accountability mechanism. And an added burden.
Another challenge is the lack of time reserved for learning and knowledge sharing throughout the monitoring and evaluation process. But it takes time, capacity and effort to make sense of monitoring data, figure out the reasons behind success and failure, and decide what to do based on that information.
In the WASH sector too, monitoring and evaluation is often used to account for funds and results of projects or programmes rather than for reflection on lessons learned and as input to improve service delivery. Field staff are already overstretched trying to fulfil their service provision tasks. So, it is encouraging to hear learning mentioned in the interviews as one of the key purposes of monitoring. After all, monitoring is not a goal in itself.
We need monitoring systems that provide data which help those involved to make improvements, innovate or refocus their attention. Both quantitative and qualitative monitoring methods and tools are available. The BRAC WASH Qualitative Information System is an innovative example performance monitoring at scale using a participatory approach that encourages community members to reflect and plan for improvements. The system can provide feedback on performance of the services, as well as information on who these services are reaching (or not) and on the effects of the services on people’s daily lives.
From data to use
Having monitoring processes and tools in place, does not automatically mean that the information collected will be used. A collective mindset of continuous improvement is an enabling factor for ensuring monitoring leads to change. Learning for change requires systematic collection and joint analysis of success and failure, based on observations, verifiable data and continuous feedback.
So monitoring and learning must go hand in hand. “It is important then, to establish a stimulating and knowledge generating and sharing environment where staff members and managers reflect, analyze and assume responsibility for the M&E process and its results“(Camacho Tuckerman 2007,p23). This is true at sector level as well and a key element in the process of establishing effective sector-wide WASH monitoring processes.
Camacho Tuckerman, B. 2007. Challenges and key success factors to integrating learning and change in monitoring and evaluation of development projects. Case study of an urban agriculture project in eastern Cuba. Knowledge Management for Development Journal 4(1): 21-30 [online] available at <http://journal.km4dev.org/index.php/km4dj/article/viewFile/114/182>
IRC’s Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery symposium. 9 to 11 April 2013, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: http://www.irc.nl/symposium2013
To see the interviews go to: washmonitoring.wordpress.com/category/videos/
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