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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation Website

--Greg Armstrong--

The MaNDE website provides a host of resources on training, evaluation methods, and results-based management.

The Monitoring and Evaluation News

Level of difficulty:  Moderate to complex 
Primarily useful for: Field managers, planners, monitoring & evaluation specialists 
Limitations: A large, complex site, which will take some time to explore 
Length: Roughly 2,000 web pages and documents
Most useful sections: The "search" function, and the archives

The Monitoring and Evaluation News website (MandE) established by Rick Davies, in 1997 is one of the most useful resources available to development professionals interested in results-based management or other approaches to planning, monitoring and evaluation.  The site could be a useful professional resource regardless of readers' level of expertise - for complete beginners, experienced managers, or those interested in the theoretical underpinnings of monitoring and evaluation; whether readers work in the field or in an academic institution or donor agency headquarters.  

This website offers a wide range of materials of potential interest, including practical guides to results-based management and other forms of evaluation and monitoring, articles on the theory of performance measurement, reports from practitioners working in the field, notices of monitoring and evaluation training events, commentaries on donor policies and guidelines, and a wide range of discussions between development professionals on planning, monitoring and evaluation issues.

The Monitoring and Evaluation website is, itself, a blog -- something like Slate for evaluators -- with the wide variety of news and opinion it includes.  But readers can also get to Rick Davies' blog and website from there.

Organization of the site

The home page for the site may mislead a casual visitor.  The most prominent feature is a list of the most recent additions to the site, but on the right, there is a search box, and a long list of other available topics, both of which deserve a careful reader's attention.

The material on the Monitoring and Evaluation News is organized in archives, with 73 categories, when I last visited, including posts related to:

Most of the web pages the reader will initially find for these categories have been developed since 2008, and the reader can get a complete list of the contents of categories since 2008 using the "search" function.  But using the search box on the web site will also lead to a large number of useful tools produced before 2008.

Narrowing the Search for results-based management material

There are over 1,800 pages on the Mande site, and it can take some time to go through the material that is here. Not all of the material may suit your own needs, and some may be slightly outdated, but what this site does is to focus on performance assessment, monitoring, and evaluation, something that can narrow considerably the time we spend on searching for results-based management tools on the internet.

In the first post on this blog in early December of 2009, on how to search for RBM tools, I noted how many web pages you might get if you did a search for  "RBM" on Google, Yahoo or Bing.  At the time, the number of hits on Google was 296,000 pages - including a lot  not even remotely related to results-based management.  And if you were not careful, you could get over 100 million pages returned on a general search for results-based management.  But using the Mande search, you will get about 190 pages returned, all of them more or less relevant to what I, at least, am looking for.

The Logical Framework Approach: Documents on MandE

I will take one example, from one category here, to illustrate the range of materials available on the Monitoring and Evaluation news website.  If you search for "LFA" on Google, you will get close to 4 million pages listed - and not one in the first 100, when I looked today, was related to the Logical Framework Approach. Doing the same search at MandE, you will get 8 pages produced since 2008, and another 25 produced prior to 2008, all directly relevant to the Logical Framework.  

One of those is particularly relevant - The Logical Framework: A list of Useful Documents, produced in January of 2008.  This page links itself to 40 sites, in four categories:
  • Explanations of the Logical Framework - containing a number of donor references and guides
  • A Wider Discussion of Logic Models - some fairly complex pages discussing alternative approaches to the Logical Framework, and some online courses
  • Critiques of the Logical Framework
  • Alternative Versions of the Logical Framework - including discussions of Outcome Mapping, Appreciative Inquiry and other topics
  • The Editor's Concerns (about uses of the Logical Framework) - Rick Davies' thoughts on the problems of using the LFA - and links to some alternatives.

    The bottom line: You can spend a long time exploring the Monitoring and Evaluation News but it will be time well spent.

    [Edited to update links, December 2011]
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