DDR practitioners in the UN and on the ground are under considerable pressure to create and implement DDR programs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most DDR practitioners are aware that M&E is an important tool in monitoring programs. However, most of these practitioners engage their skills in program implementation and planning, while simultaneously neglecting to commit the adequate resources required for a robust process of monitoring and evaluation. In this blog entry, I propose three suggestions to DDR practitioners on the importance of participating in the creation of clear and specific outcomes, outputs, activities, and indicators as a way to ensure program success.
When one embarks on the journey of creating a monitoring and evaluation plan, a logical framework matrix is created to visually keep track of monitoring a specific program, project, or organization. This logical framework matrix (or matrices in larger programs) allows the practitioner to clearly state the program’s impact (a large, broad goal that can be achieved in 5-7 years after implementing the program or project), outcomes (a series of smaller goals that can be achieved in 1-3 years of project implementation), outputs (a numeric, tangible result of the direct product or deliverables of program activities), activities (actions taken or work performed in the program), inputs (resources that deliver activities), and indicators (specific, clear ways of measuring a program’s impact, outcomes, and outputs).
Before project implementation, a monitoring and evaluation framework should be created as a shared agreement between implementing stakeholders with pre-agreed benchmarks and metrics for success. These measurements will help to determine the value and efficacy of a program. If the donor would like to focus on disarmament and demobilization rather than reintegration, this will be clearly stated in the impact and outcomes of the matrix. Creating logical frameworks allows practitioners to narrow their focus without losing sight of the donor’s desires in project implementation. Creating a M&E framework not only strengthens the program’s direction but allows for clearer communication between donors and those implementing the program.
After the initial draft of the M&E logical framework matrix is created, specialists of M&E in conflict, security, and development should be hired to clearly define indicators, or ways of measurement, and should also tweak technical language. The more specific an impact, outcome, or output is, the easier it is to measure. Take, for example, the outcome: “Ex-combatants are provided with support to reintegrate into civilian life.” It is unclear what support the outcome in the logical framework matrix is referring to. Another example of an output also expresses confusion on terms: “10,000 male and female ex-combatants are supported to become economically active.” Is this 10,000 males and females total? How will they be supported? What does economically active mean? Stronger wording allows implementation to be more precise and therefore may boast more meaningful results.
Lastly, M&E training materials written by the UNDG, UNDP, and IDDRTG need to be heavily updated and rewritten. One large error in these training materials is the explanation of the monitoring and evaluation approach as a “bottom’s up” method. This explanation describes the M&E process by giving priority to input, activities, and outputs. I argue that a “top’s down” approach is the best in explaining M&E to DDR practitioners by focusing on the larger, long-term impact and outcomes.
Written by Meredith Bapir