As I have now finally come to terms with, my job description for my service as a grant trainee manager at a local foundation spans much further than that which was actually articulated to me during my orientation at my host organization early this year. I have come to this bittersweet conclusion because as an active grant manager, one is expected to motivate, inspire, support, encourage, brainstorm, monitor and evaluate, fundraise, connect and offer words of wisdom to a portfolio of grantees. (Among other roles) Often too, grantees just need affirmation that they are on the right track or feel the healthy need to share their frustrations with a willing ear. These many hats that I now wear has been both an art and science in juggling.
As a grant trainee manager, it is understandably expected that I should be a connoisseur in all things M&E.I am further made constantly aware of the nuance’s between different reporting templates and terminology that some of our grantees and other donor agencies use such as impact vis-à-vis goals for instance. My disclaimers is true- I am by no means a guru on monitoring and evaluation especially for non-profits where the grantees goal is almost always chiefly to change social behavior and norms, or to change peoples thinking, attitudes or feelings. In my experience these intangible elements have proven to be the most difficult to measure and I am often left at loggerheads trying to decipher the grantee’s outcomes while reading their reporting tools.
After much research, attending trainings and participating in team sessions on M& E, I have come to the realization that it is not as catastrophic that I am not an M & E expert. However for prudent realization of my terms and conditions as a fellow, I have equipped myself with basic tools to help both the grantor and grantee make sense of the scary world of monitoring and evaluation. First things first, I took extreme pride and delight in acing the PMD Pro- 1 ‘The Essentials of Project Management’ offered by Inside NGO. After having spent most of my adult years in Law school, I needed to (re)-learn a new language comprising of Gantt charts, problem trees and PERT charts. This has significantly helped ensure that the grantees and I are speaking the same language and hopefully from the same script too.
Secondly, I have embarked on collecting routine information and conducting check-in calls to monitor progress of the grants. From this monitoring, it is very clear (mostly in theory) how the program will likely benefit the recipients of the program (evaluation). This collection and reviewing has to be a routine activity for optimum results and for best practice.
Thirdly, especially for grantees in the civil society field, I have realized that the more focused their project objectives and goals are, the better and easier it is for both parties to monitor and evaluate success. A statement such as ‘improve health of all Kenyan children’ for instance, as noble as it sounds; may be a bit problematic to understand the project scope. My newly horned M& E skills will seek a revision of the same after having engaged with the grantee to understand what it is they actually envision and may likely come up with a project goal such as ‘ Improve the health in target communities in Siaya County, Kenya, by reducing the incidence of Malaria. The clearer the project objective is and more focused the better!
Fourthly and finally, for correctly developing indicators in a log frame, be neutral, specific and unambiguous in reporting, begin with a measure and specify one result per indicator. For instance, from the above hypothetical programmatic goal, indicators such as ‘community in need of health care’, and ‘increased number of constituents without Malaria’ are incorrect indicators because they are without a measure and in the second instance are not neutral in terms of what is being achieved. Correct indicators for the same might sound more like ‘Number of constituents in need of Health Education’ or ‘% of members of the community in need of treated mosquito nets.’ And ‘Number of community members trained’ or number of mosquito nets distributed.’
Two key lessons I have learnt wearing my M& E hat is that if your templates are not clear to you the author; it clearly will be more difficult for outsiders to grasp the same and that the use of ordinary plain use of words goes a long way!!