STEP 3: Data Checking

So, you have collected data and used it to test some of your working assumptions about how your project is (or should be) tackling a particular problem. You may have identified some outcomes which might be considered intermediate rather than final. After all, your project is still ongoing.

So, now you need to check or triangulate your findings. This involves collecting more data which can help to corroborate or challenge your earlier conclusions. These later findings may also shed further light on your assumptions.

Many techniques can be used including Most Significant Change, surveys, participant observation and focus groups

Here, the focus is on the following techniques:

Brief Illustration

It’s probably worth a quick example before going any further.

Perhaps, you organised a focus group as your step 2 and found that the widows in a remote local village expressed an interest in your offer of equipment and training in order to establish a sewing workshop in which bags and other accessories are produced. Your assumption is that this will provide productive employment and will bring a much needed source of income to vulnerable women.

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

But when you come to the data checking stage, you begin to have your doubts. You discover that a large number of products have been made and that there is no more cloth or leather. Some of the machines have broken down largely because of the actions of untrained workers who have joined in hoping to make money. Worse still, only a handful of items have been sold and the main buyers have been the NGO staff engaged in the project as well as some occasional passing tourists.

So, now your assumption has changed. The core problem appears to be the remoteness of the village, the distance from tourist lodges and from markets in any larger towns. The cost of transport is high when account is taken of the low margins on the products (which are actually of high quality). How can you build market access into the project. Can you help the widows develop links with local tourist lodges and offer tourists from those lodges a discount. Is there a reliable driver who could help transport one or more of the widows several times a week. How can this cost be built into the price of the items? How many products need to be sold before firther materials can be obtained? How can the machines be repaired and the untrained staff trained? You are now looking at the project through different eyes. You have a new Theory of Change.

Where to next?

Click here to return to the top of the page. When you have read the information in step 3, you may wish to go on and look at a simplified worked example of a Theory-Based evaluation.