Glossary of key terms in monitoring and evaluation
Glossary of key terms in monitoring and evaluation
Terms used in monitoring and evaluation are often technical and difficult to understand. Rather than providing set definitions of each term, this glossary aims to provide pragmatic, user-friendly explanations of what these terms mean.
...refers to the means by which individuals and organisations report to (a) recognised authority(ies) and are held responsible for their actions.
1) purpose: an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides one’s planned actions
2) the overall, or wider objective of a project or action (see also: Goal)
It is useful to break aims down into two different categories: overall aim and specific aims.
On an organisational level, some organisations call their overall aim a “mission statement”. The overall aim should be broken down into specific aims. These are more precise statements about different aspects of your overall aim.
This is the ultimate reason for undertaking a project or programme. The goal is the ‘higher-order objective’ to which an intervention/initiative is intended to contribute (see also: aim, overall aim).
The positive and negative, desirable and undesirable, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by an intervention which can be direct or indirect, intended or unintended. Such broader effects of a project/programme’s activities, outputs and outcomes exceed a project/programme’s immediate sphere of responsibility.
An indicator is a pre-defined variable which helps to identify (in)direct differences in quality and/or quantity within a defined period of time. As a “unit of measure” it allows to judge if an intervention was successful or not. With the aid of indicators, complex problems are simplified and reduced to an observable dimension.
For example, if you are training for long-jump, your main indicator would be “the additional centimetres you are able to jump” after improving your technique through completing the training units.
Indicators are often referred to as performance indicators (PIs), divided into output indicators or outcome indicators. Performance indicators are well-defined qualitative and quantitative measures that show how well an organisation or project is performing.
Output indicators are used to assess whether and to what extent outputs have been delivered. Outcome indicators are used to assess whether or the degree to which the expected outcomes have occurred.
Any resource that is put into a project or programme to carry out an activity can be considered an input. Input can be units of time, staff, money, equipment, know-how, ideas, etc. available to be expended in order for an organisation to produce the outputs and consequently outcomes identified as part of a planned programme or project.
Objectives describe the planned areas of activity by which a project or programme is to achieve its aims. Objectives directly translate into a list of activities. Objectives are usually endeavoured to be reached in finite time by setting deadlines.
Outcomes are changes, benefits, learning or other effects that happen as a result of services and activities provided by an organisation. Outcomes can be positive or negative, expected or unexpected. Outcomes can be relevant for individuals, families, whole communities, organisations, or other fields such as policy, law or natural environment. Outcomes relate to specific aims/purpose. Outcomes are all the changes that may actually occur when you carry out activities to achieve a specific aims. They may not always be the same as the outcomes you planned. Outcomes can be a direct and/or indirect result of outputs.
Since there are often smaller changes that need to happen before the main desired outcome can be reached, intermediate steps have to be acknowledged along the way to the final outcome. Such steps are called intermediate or interim outcomes.
Usually two different types of outcomes are distinguished:
...are typically defined as intangible, a matter of degree and more difficult to measure (e.g. changes in attitudes, self-perception or certain skills areas). These are often, but not always, intermediate outcomes.
...are defined as quantifiable and often more easily measured (e.g. organisations raise more money as a result of improved fundraising through training).
Hard outcomes are not better than soft outcomes, simply different.
Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation
As part of an organisation’s M&E system, participatory M&E refers to a particular method of assessing data. Participatory M&E involves a broad range of stakeholders (including immediate beneficiaries of a project) in the decision-making process concerning the scope of the evaluation, the evaluation procedure, the type of information to be collected and the process of reviewing the collected data. Participatory M&E provides those involved in a project with more direct feedback on how the project or programme affects the local community. It can also increase the sense of ownership for a project/programme.
Agencies, organisations, institutions, entities, groups and individuals who influence or who are directly or indirectly influenced/affected by a project or programme can be defined as stakeholders. Stakeholders have a significant interest in the success or failure of a project or programme. The involvement of the largest possible number of stakeholders into the management of project cycle (planning, implementation, evaluation, reporting) will promote understanding, enlarge ownership, and foster sustainability of the project’s /programme’s sustainability.
Sustainability describes the process of continued existence of benefits from an intervention after the concrete implementation has been completed.
Sustainability is the primary aim of development processes. A project is sustainable if the changes purposely set in motion and supported (effects, processes, etc.) during the duration of the project/programme can be continuously developed and maintained over time.
Target groups are those individuals or groups that a project or programme is targeting with its intervention. A target group consists of specific individuals, specific organisations, or specific institutions, etc. for whom project services are intended. Target groups can differ from beneficiaries of a project for whom the benefits of the intervention are intended. (E.g. an intervention might target parents through training in child care and the preparation of healthy food in order to eliminate obesity with the beneficiaries of the project, their children).