As in any kind of complex projects, also in the case of PE initiatives a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component is to be included.
What and why
In many cases, researchers and managers do not like to be involved with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. M&E is often perceived as something, e.g., useless, boring, time-wasting or even dangerous for one’s own career. Moreover, in the academia and research contexts, the staff is often involved in different kinds of M&E exercises. Therefore, including M&E in PE initiatives may increase a sense of “evaluation fatigue” within the organisation, leading to different forms of refusal or resistance.
However, developing a PE initiative lacking an internal M&E process is almost useless and, in certain cases, counterproductive. Sponsors of PE initiatives should be fully aware of what M&E really is and above all why it is so important for the success of a PE initiative. As a matter of fact, only a serious M&E process allows them to understand whether the initiative attained the expected results and produced the expected benefits for all the involved parties, thus providing opportunities for improving their own skills and knowledge. Under the PE2020, a synthetic model of PE evaluation has been developed.
Approaches and techniques
There are various general approaches to M&E which can be usefully applied in the case of PE initiatives. They differ from each other in, e.g., focus, objectives, theoretical assumptions or role of evaluators. In some cases, the sponsor should feel free to use different approaches in a coordinated way, especially when the objectives pursued are complex, the outputs of the PE exercise are difficult to detect or their expertise in PE is still limited.
Also the techniques that can be applied are many, including direct observations, formal interviews or focus groups discussion. Each one has features and application contexts which it is important to know before selecting them. Again, a combination of different techniques could be sometimes necessary for making the evaluation exercise useful and effective.
It is to highlight that, as the PE initiative in itself, also the evaluation process should be necessarily based on participatory mechanisms, allowing participants to express their opinions and at least to be informed about its results. Circulating the evaluation report among the participants is therefore strongly recommended.