Creating an M&E Plan
1. Finalize M&E plans within the first quarter of the project
The first step in creating a high-quality M&E system is to ensure that you are collecting the appropriate data to meet the information needs of your project‘s various stakeholders. Your M&E plan should clearly reflect these information needs. Annex A presents a template for summarizing your project‘s M&E plan. Refer to ProPack I27 Chapter IV and ProPack II28 Chapters IV, VI and VII for guidance on developing a ProFrame and an M&E plan. Annex B provides further guidance and tips for completing an M&E plan.
The ProFrame provides the foundation for the M&E plan. Ensure that your ProFrame clearly states your objectives and anticipated results and has been reviewed and finalized by relevant CRS and partner staff prior to beginning your M&E plan.
To review the quality and appropriateness of your M&E Plan, refer to Appendix II— Step 1 of the CRS Asia monitoring system review tool.
You should aim to finalize the M&E plan early within the program cycle, by the end of the first quarter at the latest. For some programs, it is feasible to finalize the M&E plan prior to the start of the program. For other programs, it is feasible to finalize the M&E plan within the first quarter of the program. Specify an appropriate deadline to finalize the M&E plan for your project and communicate this date to all relevant CRS and partner staff. Ask these staff to participate in a review session or workshop on the M&E plan and allow sufficient time to revise the M&E plan prior to this date.
Avoid an extended cycle of revisions and drafts of the M&E plan. Some projects have continued past midterm with their M&E plans still in draft form or incomplete and have ultimately not collected required monitoring data throughout the life of the program. It is important to consolidate feedback and finalize the M&E plan within the project’s first quarter (at the latest) to ensure that correct data are collected throughout the project.
Create an M&E binder (or operating manual) to house all relevant M&E documents for your project, including the results framework, ProFrame, M&E plan template, monitoring, evaluation and reporting formats and tools, and schedules for analysis and reflection events and for reporting. Refer to the monitoring system review tool in Appendix II for a checklist of simple measurement of indicators for learning and evidence-based reporting (SMILER) M&E binder components according to ProPack III guidance. Use this binder as a reference through the life of the program and be sure to add any new or revised documents or tools as they are developed.
Include a narrative for each M&E form in your M&E binder, which provides in-depth instructions on how to use that monitoring form. These instructions will serve as a reference for M&E staff and the data collection team and complement their training and orientation on the tools.