M vs E – Test your knowledge

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Monitoring and Evaluation: Which is Which?

An evaluation is a snapshot of a project/ programme’s achievements at a particular point in time. Monitoring is more like a film or video of the ongoing activities of the project/ programme. As with any snapshots you take or videos you record, you need to decide which bits are relevant to your narrative (the plot) and which bit are not (the red herrings!).

Monitoring and Evaluation are of course organically linked.  Both offer insights that are of value to NGOs and donors. Monitoring usually provides data for evaluation, and some kind of assessement or ‘evaluation’ happens in the course of monitoring.

For example, monitoring may tell us that 5 youth ambassadors were trained in public speaking, but it may also include post-training assessments showing what they have actually learned. An evaluation may use this monitoring information to assess any difference the training made towards the overall objective or change the impact the training was trying to produce. For example, monitoring may show an increase in awareness of the dangers of drug abuse, an evaluation would consider whether this was relevant in the reduction of HIV transmission.

Some distinctions can nonetheless usually be drawn. Examine the statements below and mark whether they are more likely to form part of the Monitoring or the Evaluation process.

To test your understanding of Monitoring vs Evaluation, take a quiz here.


Detailed Explanation of the Differences

Here is a summary of the key differences between monitoring and evaluation.

Usually done internallyOften done externally by an independent evaluator but can be done internally or jointly with help from another NGO or critical friend/ expert
Ongoing processInfrequent and undertaken at a specific point in time
Relatively low cost but still needs to be budgeted forRelatively high cost, especially for small to medium NGOs
Focuses on tracking progress of project (outputs, budgets, compliance with procedures)Offers an in-depth, methodologically rigorous assessment
Usually qualitativeMay be qualitative and/ or quantitative
Checks that the project is constantly working for and with beneficiariesEnsures that the project is accountable to funders and stakeholders
Forms an essential part of good day to day managementLooks retrospectively and analytically at results of project
Focuses on what is happeningFocuses on what has happened
Provides insights primarily needed by the organisationProvides insights primarily needed by donors

Sources: Adapted from Council for International Development

Where to next?

Click here to return to What is Evaluation, here for the welcome page, here for the Quick 1-2-3 method and here for the Full 1-2-3 Method.