Most professionals working in the development and humanitarian relief sector understand that MEAL (monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning) is essential to good project management. For example, project teams need to be accountable to stakeholders and project participants. Donors require logic models and evidence to track the progress and impact of a project. Monitoring data is needed to make project decisions and contribute to good reporting. Organizations hope to contribute to sectoral learning agendas… …and much, much more.
Given the potential scope of these processes, it is clear that everyone involved in the management of projects has a role to play in MEAL. But, do all of these project stakeholders share an understanding of what good MEAL looks like? Do they know how to develop and use project logic models that reflect the local context and can be adapted as that operating context changes? Can they collect reliable and useful data about their project? Can they solicit and utilize feedback from project participants?
Despite the importance of MEAL processes, many people working in the field lack the skills, experience, and training to effectively design, plan and implement a good MEAL system. Furthermore, it is often the case that organizations lack the resources to build the capacities of their staff in MEAL.
The implications of these challenges are many and varied. For example:
Projects may be designed and implemented without a clear understanding of goals and objectives, meaning that it is difficult to determine “project success.”
Without good planning, MEAL activities may not be integrated into project budgets in ways that effectively and efficiently utilize scarce financial resources.
Poorly designed evaluations result in inconclusive recommendations and, in the worst case scenario, a written report that gets shoved into a drawer and forgotten.
The MEAL DPro Starter and the wider MEAL DPro suite of resources aim to address this challenge by providing basic skills, tools, and resources to NGO actors around the world.