Effective M&E capacity development requires a realistic understanding of the context in which M&E capacities are to be developed and used.  This includes the organizational structure and culture in which capacity development occurs, as well as the broader operational context that can hinder or enable M&E capacity development. This post presents a checklist of key considerations to inform context analysis for M&E capacity development.

A context analysis for M&E capacity development examines the system-wide components of an organization and its operational context to determine the recommended approach to capacity development.  It is important to determine not only the organizational need, but also its readiness for M&E capacity development (Cousins, Goh, Clark, & Lee 2004; Preskill, Torres & Martinez-Papponi, 1999).

Organizational context are diverse, ranging from public national and international agencies to civic and private organizations. Particular attention should be given to the political climate in an organization, identifying potential ‘roadblocks’ (resistance) to M&E capacity development, as well as potential champions (key supporters) that shape the demand and can help steer resources and support for the uptake of M&E capacity development efforts.

It is also essential to identify specific actors and factors in the external environment that can influence M&E capacity development and its transfer into practice. This includes broader social, political and economic forces, such as the demand for accountability, M&E expectations and standards, donor M&E and reporting requirements (format and frequency), funding availability and other resources for M&E. In addition, there are practical considerations, such as the public infrastructure, facilities, transportation, and access to internet, which can have a pervasive impact on M&E capacity development.

There are a range of secondary and primary sources of data that can be consulted for the context analysis. Potential stakeholders include people in an organization, community members, partner organizations, donors, government agencies and officials. Particular attention to any capacity assessment data and related background documentation already available; it is important to avoid  duplication of analysis, which can result in analysis fatigue and undermine support for M&E capacity development. When prior analysis data is available, it is important to understand who made the analysis and how it was conducted.

A final reminder before introducing the checklist: M&E capacity development should be aligned and pursued in relation to other organizational objectives and capacity development interventions, (see separate post, Top Ten Tips for Evaluation Capacity Building in Organizations). M&E capacity development does not exist for its own sake, but as a means to an end relative to an organization’s overall mission and strategic objectives.  It should not be “silo-ed,” nor should it duplicate or compete with other capacity development efforts. M&E capacity development is ideally planned as part of a coherent strategy that complements and reinforces overall organizational capacity development.

Ultimately, who and what is consulted for a context analysis for M&E capacity development will depend on the specific organization, stakeholders and needs. Therefore, the following checklist is far from exhaustive, but is illustrative to be adapted according to need and context.

Context Analysis Checklist for M&E Capacity Development
Key Factors Key Considerations – Organizational
Management structure & processes
  • What is the overall management structure (organogram), and where do M&E functions sit?
  • What are the organization’s strategic objectives, and how do they relate to M&E and its capacity development?
  • How might organizational policies, procedures, and other administrative processes affect M&E practice?
  • Are there well-defined roles and responsibilities for M&E—who is accountable for what?
  • How is M&E reflected in job descriptions and staff recruitment?
  • What incentives are used to promote M&E (carrots to encourage and reward M&E practice; sticks to require M&E and penalize poor practice; sermons that endorse or advocate the value of M&E)?
  • Are individual assessments conducted for M&E and related skills sets?
  • Is M&E included in performance appraisals and supported by career development—for example, coaching or mentoring?
M&E resources & practice
  • What is the current M&E capacity of the organization—for example, is M&E information timely, reliable, and useful for the organization?
  • Has an organizational assessment been conducted for M&E (separately or as part of an overall organizational assessment)?
  • What are the gaps in the current M&E system that need to be addressed—for example, is there an adequate analytical capacity for decision-makers to interpret and use evidence?
  • Is there a strategic plan or objectives for M&E and its capacity building, and to what degree is it followed, monitored, and evaluated?
  • What existing guidelines, tools, templates and other resources are available for M&E functions?
  • What is the current level of human, financial, physical, and technology resources for M&E?
  • Is M&E specifically itemized in program budgets, or is it subsumed (assumed) as part of the overall operational budget?
  • What are the funding prospects for sustaining or improving the M&E system?
Capacity development resources & practice
  • What is the current “capacity for capacity development” within the organization? How often does it occur, and what is its uptake?
  • What M&E-dedicated training, resources, and other capacity development activities are currently available (either internal or external to the organization)? 
  • What M&E-dedicated training, resources, and other capacity development activities have been available in the past? Have they been effective and why?
  • What non-M&E learning initiatives/training already exist? What is their timing and frequency? Do these trainings incorporate any M&E content?
  • How might M&E capacity development be complemented and supported by existing capacity development activities and systems?
  • What is the availability of funding for capacity development and specifically for the requested M&E capacity development?
  • What is the availability of human resources for M&E capacity development – for example, for training development, facilitation, follow-up, and administration? (Note: consider not only their presence but availability for supporting capacity development).
  • What material/physical resources are available for the requested M&E capacity development – for example, existing M&E training materials (curriculums and content), equipment and technology, and training?
Networking & linkages
  • What systems are established for advocacy, resource mobilization, and partnership engagement for M&E?
  • Are there potential public agencies, VOPEs, research centers, universities, and so forth that could serve as reliable partners for M&E capacity objectives?
  • How well does the organization identify and leverage autonomy in its partnerships for M&E and its capacity development?
  • Are there exchange visits, communities of practice, or other opportunities for M&E sharing and capacity development that can complement and should be planned with M&E training?
Organizational culture & demand
  • What is driving the demand for M&E in the organization, e.g. internal or externally (donor) driven?
  • What is the overall climate or perception of M&E capacity development? Is it perceived as top-down and mandated, or is there buy-in and understanding of its value within the organization?
  • Is there leadership/senior management support for M&E capacity development within the organization?
  • Who, specifically, is requesting M&E capacity development and why?
  • What is the specific commitment for (or resistance to) the proposed M&E capacity development?
  • How will the transfer (use of) and return on investment from M&E capacity development be sustained?
  • Who are the key decision-makers, potential champions, as well as roadblocks for M&E capacity development?
  • Are there trusting relationships, teamwork, and collective responsibility in the organization/program?
  • What are the pressures and responsibilities faced by managers and staff that affect M&E functions within the organization?
  • What incentives and disincentives are there for M&E at the organizational level?
Sociocultural setting
  • What historical, demographic, and other cultural factors are relevant for M&E capacity development—for example, mores, values, and ways of knowing as well as holidays and customs that can affect capacity development delivery and scheduling?
Political and economic trends
  • What political and economic factors affect the priorities and funding for accountable M&E—for example, stability, crisis, corruption, changing political leadership, and agendas?
Regulatory environment
  • What policy, laws, and administrative and bureaucratic systems affect the operational environment for organizations?
  • Are there M&E standards, norms and requirements established and promoted through accrediting and public agencies and VOPEs?
  • Are M&E standards, norms and requirements upheld? Are they externally monitored and assessed?
Demand and funding
  • What funding as well as other resources are available from public, international, and private donors for M&E capacity development and the specific training being considered?
  • To what degree does external funding dictate M&E and overall programing priorities within the recipient organization?
  • What are donor/partner M&E expectations and requirements for M&E and reporting format, content, and frequency?
  • What degree are external incentives commonly employed for M&E?
External support/resources
  • What is the availability of external research and technical support for M&E – for example, from research institutes, universities, think tanks, VOPES and other professional organizations?
  • What is the availability and reliability of public statistical information and the management systems to access and use M&E – for example, from government ministries or international organizations such as UN agencies?
  • What is the public infrastructure and technological options available for M&E capacity development – for example, Internet access in a less versus more developed country?
  • Are there mechanisms to support communication, coordination, and collaboration across organizations (civil, public, or private) for M&E?

 

Context Analysis Checklist for M&E Capacity Development
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