Communities contribute to the interpretation of M&E data
Involving community members in the interpretation of M&E data allows the project team to efficiently identify and address any problems that arise, increases the relevance of programming and often helps in identifying lessons learned. We are accountable to meet the priority needs of the people we serve; discussing project results, both successes and challenges, with community members, both those who participated and did not participate in the project, and soliciting their feedback and level of satisfaction is an important step in doing so.
As part of monitoring, regular community involvement in interpretation of results helps project teams to understand why changes are or are not happening and how and why change varies for different groups within the community. Input from members of different community groups, including those who are more vulnerable as well as men and women, will explain quantitative monitoring results from a variety of perspectives. Based on these explanations, the project team and community members can immediately identify ways to improve project activities or address any problems or challenges that have arisen in ways that the community finds to be the most appropriate.
At the time of evaluation, sharing and interpreting results with community members, both those who participated and who did not participate in the project, can further learning about how relevant the project strategies were in meeting community needs. The underlying reasons for success and for difficulties faced provide the in-depth understanding needed to identify strong lessons learned.
Tips for involving the community in interpretation of monitoring and evaluation results: Interpret the results with different groups in the community. Hold FGDs with different types of community members (men, women, more vulnerable households or other groups identified through the needs assessment) to share and discuss the project‘s monitoring results or the results of a baseline, midterm or endline survey or evaluation. Determine the frequency of interpretation events based on the frequency of data collection. Data should generally be interpreted as soon as they are available. FGDs to discuss monitoring and evaluation results should be held as soon as the data are available. Share the M&E results, not conclusions or assumptions by the team. After sharing the results, facilitate a discussion with the community to discuss progress and identify successes and challenges. The community is likely to be most interested in the results for community-selected indicators. Present the overall results as well as the results specific for males and females and for different communities as relevant. If the data do not require analysis by the project team, it may be most appropriate to assist the community to analyze the data themselves by providing visual displays of results and facilitating participatory discussion. Avoid presenting conclusions that the team may have drawn about the results and why changes have or have not occurred. Ask ―why‖ and ―why not‖ probing questions. Asking ―why‖ and ―why not‖ in the discussion will prompt more in-depth explanations. Ask for examples that illustrate typical, best or worst cases as further explanation where feasible. Be open about challenges and difficulties. Discuss challenges openly with the community to solicit honest responses (and criticisms) from community members and to demonstrate the team‘s interest in feedback and learning. Include time for community interpretation in evaluation scopes of work. For baseline and evaluations, include the process for community interpretation of results in the scope of work. This will ensure that adequate time and planning are allocated for a high-quality interpretation process, whether an internal team or external evaluator facilitates it.