Monitoring and Evaluation Top 10 Trends for 2018

David Hearle our world leading M&E specialist lists the top trends for Monitoring and Evaluation in International Development in 2018. Technology, greater private sector involvement and need for donors to justify investment in overseas aid are playing a large part.

1) Continued growth of the Theory of Change and designs that allow flexibility during implementation. This requires inclusion in the M&E system how external assumptions will be monitored during implementation and reporting to enable implementation adjustments to take place.

2) Increased focus on social impact investing. Financial returns are becoming more important as an indicator. The blending of traditional monitoring and evaluation tools used by development agencies with those used by the investment community. For example, Return on Equity used in the investment community rarely features in a traditional development project. The combination of financial return with social benefit does challenge how we design M&E systems and the need to consider and balance both.

3) Growth of private sector involvement in development in the form of increasing public – private sector partnerships. This leads to incorporating measurement methodologies used in the private sector with traditional M&E tools used in the development sector with a strong focus on economic returns and economic benefits to justify the investment. M&E practitioners will need to familiarise themselves with terms like Return on Capital Employed and EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization) and others.

4) Increased pressure from bilateral donors to demonstrate the value of aid to the providing taxpayer in the form of results that can be shared with the general public and no misuse of those funds. For some bilateral donors linking aid with trade and provision of evidence that demonstrates will be asked for.

5) Value for Money is now well established in most development projects. We expect to see increased innovation on how value for money is applied. One route being the increased use of milestones to measure progress requiring our monitoring and evaluation systems to measure milestones.

6) An acceptance that randomised control trials are not always required for rigour and good use of mixed methods provides an equally robust result in a more cost-effective manner. There is not likely to be any reduction on the need for strong evidence to support result measurement for those donors under pressure to prove impact and they will continue to invest in complex evaluations. Some donors in contrast are taking a softer more learning orientated approach.

7) Increased use of open source data collection and the use of android driven mobile phones in rural areas to replace paper-based systems. A limitation remains for some countries the cost and availability of mobile technology and the internet in rural areas so will not be universal. Where the technology exists replacement of paper-based systems with digital systems is fast happening.

8) An increased use of open source free measurement platforms. This being part of a growth of “big data” and the application of big data to improve planning and intervention selection. Some donors have set up common platforms that funded organisations and projects report into. This then determines the M&E system the implementing organisation will then be using. Increased care on the sharing of data and need for privacy. As we have more open platforms the risk of privacy issuers is raised as we have seen with Facebook. Data responsibility will be an important consideration.

9) Linking programs and projects to the SDGs and measuring progress against the SDGs. The SDGs will increasingly guide the higher-level indicators for many development projects and interventions.

10) Linking quantitative data with qualitative data. With increased focus on numbers and solid measurement captured in big data sets this needs a human and local interpretation that is captured with qualitative data. Reports that combine tabulation with most significant change stories.

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