By Cara Stephenson- Monitoring and Evaluation Intern
I love Monitoring & Evaluation. I really do. Perhaps this makes me somewhat of a dork, but I don’t care. At all.
When I tell people I am interning as an M&E coordinator here at Shanti, I am often met with blank eyes. Most people don’t even know what this means. For the few people that do know, I’m usually met with bored eyes telling me “how could you possibly enjoy statistics?”
Monitoring & Evaluation is a process, and is loosely defined as the processes of monitoring a program and evaluating the impact it has on the target population in order to assess the success of a program. However, in practice, the definition isn’t so enlightening or useful. It is the purpose of M&E that is enthralling to me.
I know what people must think: data entry, qualitative research, and analysis of stats… gosh that girl must be boring! I’d like to think not, but that’s not for me to say.
Looking back at High School, I have vivid memories of a careers session where we were all forced to sit down and take an aptitude test to determine which careers we would be suited to. My results came in – a career in accounting or actuarial sciences was to be my future. It made sense, maths was always my best subject and I took thrill in solving complex equations and problems. However, a career in actuarial science? No thank you. I have always wanted to work with people – finding a way to merge both numbers and the real world became my struggle.
I became interested in development, but it wasn’t until I saw so many failing NGOs in action that I considered studying my Masters of Public Health. This Masters made sense – I wanted my goal to become finding ways in which an NGO can function the best it possibly can – otherwise, what’s the point? If an organization is wasting time, money, resources and staff on projects that could be more efficient, then finding ways to increase efficiency is the answer.
Monitoring & Evaluation is so vital to any organization, and I am thrilled that Shanti is now engaged with this process. To see how far the projects have come and how we are inching closer to our long-term goals is exciting. The use of M&E is allowing us to track our progress and find problems as soon as they arise. Also, we are able to show our donors and supporters just how far we have come in such a short time!
Monitoring & Evaluation must be used – otherwise we are all just fools sitting behind a desk plugging data into a spreadsheet for nothing – and frankly I’d rather be out in fresh air than doing such things. I hear the words ‘trends’ ‘analysis’ ‘qualitative study’ and ‘statistics’ and I actually get very excited. I doubt I can make everybody so excited about program evaluation, but at the very least I would like for people to appreciate the role that it plays in development and the growth and long-term sustainability of any NGO.
On a closing note, If anyone doubts that M&E and statistics are boring, may I suggest looking up Hans Rosling on TED Talks – even my housemates who find statistics less than joyful, are excited by this man! Check him out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo)!