Communities participate in data collection for monitoring and for evaluation
Community participation in data collection contributes to the ownership of monitoring results and of overall project impact. Providing communities with an opportunity to track the changes they value most, to reflect on why changes have or have not occurred, and to discuss how to address challenges and improve impact with the project team can all contribute to greater ownership and, in turn, reinforce positive behavior change throughout the community.
Community monitoring processes also can contribute to more reliable monitoring results given that communities often know which households or individuals do or do not practice a certain technique or behavior and why. Through discussion, community members can help identify early successes, barriers to change and ideas for addressing any current challenges. In comparison, household monitoring visits by project staff, for example, collect data from only a few households and thus offer a more limited perspective on the overall change.
The use of existing community committees in monitoring It is often convenient to use existing community committees or structures in the community monitoring process. However, this is appropriate only if the project team is confident, based on input from diverse community members, that the existing committee will be able to represent the various voices and perspectives in the community. In addition, the project team should consider the current responsibilities of these committees and avoid over-burdening their members. If it is not appropriate to use existing committees, talk to a range of community members, especially vulnerable or marginalized groups, about who they would like to collect monitoring data.
Tips for involving community members in data collection: Involve the same individuals throughout the monitoring process. This will support more in-depth analysis and interpretation of trends over time. Determine the frequency of data collection and analysis based on how fast change is likely to occur. In many cases, quarterly data collection is appropriate (followed by quarterly interpretation of the results) for behavior change. Depending on the type of change, however, ongoing data collection may be necessary. For example, vaccination of newborns may need to be recorded whenever babies are born in the community. On the other hand, agricultural practices may be season-specific. Be flexible and consider the time and effort involved in data collection when helping communities determine what frequency is appropriate for each indicator. Ensure the data collection and recording method is appropriate for the specific individuals or groups selected by the community for the task. Some community monitors may be comfortable recording simple data (e.g., numbers of individuals or households) in basic forms or tables. In some cases, an illiterate committee member can be paired with a literate youth for recording purposes; or alternative visual recording methods (using images or pocket charts) can be investigated. A pile-sorting exercise, using beans or stones, or completing a matrix diagram facilitated by project staff also can be appropriate to demonstrate trends and changes in practices observed by community members. See the Community Based Disaster Preparedness: A How-To Guide16 for examples of these methods. Include all community-selected indicators in community data collection. If more vulnerable households, or men and women focus groups, selected different indicators than those selected by other community members, ask individuals from these groups to collect the data for their indicators and ensure they are involved in the interpretation of the results.