USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Getting Started with Monitoring and Evaluation

Getting Started with Monitoring and Evaluation

Getting Started with Monitoring and Evaluation

What is Monitoring and Evaluation?

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is a process by which an organization learns about how well their programs run and how to improve performance and achieve results.

According to Ann Douchette, Research Professor at Claremont Graduate University:

Monitoring tracks the movement of indicators towards the achievement of specific, predetermined targets.

Evaluation takes a broader view, considering progress towards stated goals, the logic of the initiative and its consequences.

Both are needed to better manage policies, programs and projects.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is a strategic grant-maker, meaning it lays out specific goals to guide its giving. The Catholic Sisters Initiative has developed a strategy and a theory of change to guide its giving from 2018-2022. As its Measurement, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) partner, the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture analyzes data obtained from grantees and other sources to determine if the Initiative’s interventions are on track to accomplish its stated goals. As part of this process, the Initiative team and CRCC have defined 17 key indicators of progress to track those goals.

The Hilton Foundation anticipates that successful grant applicants’ programs will fit within their strategic goals. Grantees are required to have a M&E plan, including an allocated budget for this activity.

The M&E process also creates stronger organizations that can learn and improve their work.

Why do Monitoring and Evaluation?

Monitoring and Evaluation information can inform you and all stakeholders (beneficiaries, donors, and partners) if your interventions (however well intentioned and well thought out) have ultimately lead to desired results. M&E from beneficiary organizations also can provide important clues as to why the broader implementation strategies (for example, the 2018 – 2022 Catholic Sisters Strategic Initiative Strategy) are or are not on track to reach their goals.

Monitoring and evaluation reports can play many different roles. The information they produce can be put to different uses that benefit your organization and your stakeholders (beneficiaries, donors, and partners):

  • To explore understand and investigate what works, what does not and why
  • To discover challenges early to optimize intervention outcome and impact
  • To anticipate improvements needed to sustain and/or increase intervention impact
  • To determine the impact of a particular intervention
  • To demonstrate results and gain support from stakeholders
  • To convince stakeholders of the value of the program, using credible and useful information from findings (i.e., show evidence)

Does your grant report accomplish these goals?

Adapted from Jody Zall Kusek and Ray C. Rist (2004, World Bank)

How do I get started with M&E?

Assessing a program’s performance and learning from this assessment requires a system. Below, you will find resources that help you to take a program’s goals and methods and create a system through which you can measure results by tracking indicators of progress. offers a step-by-step guide, as well as video tutorials, templates (opens Word document) and reviews.

The guide includes basic instructions on how to choose your indicators, defining how your indicators will be measured, identify which tool will be used to collect data on that indicator, and who will be responsible for using the tool.

Another resource for getting started with your M&E is the Rainbow Framework by BetterEvaluation (also available in Español). The framework shows the different options (methods or processes) that can be used for each task in an evaluation. The range of tasks are organized into seven color-coded clusters that aim to make it easy for you to find what you need: Manage, Define, Frame, Describe, Understand Causes, Synthesize and Report & Support Use. The Rainbow Framework can help you plan an M&E activity by prompting you to think about each of these tasks in turn, and select a combination of methods and processes that cover all tasks involved.

Finally, Measure Evaluation offers a self-guided mini-course, which covers the basics of program monitoring and evaluation in the context of population, health and nutrition programs. It also defines common terms and discusses why M&E is essential for program management. This publication is also available in the following language: Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

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