The Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) at Oxfam India plays the essential function of gathering evidence to measure the degree to which our interventions bring about sustainable changes in the lives of women and men. One of the key purposes of MEL is to enable Oxfam India as a whole to communicate, to both internal and external stakeholders, about their scope and scale of the work and effectiveness of their interventions.
- Measure Effectiveness that contributes to positive change
- The relationship between outcome-level changes and interventions can only be assessed by appropriate and sufficiently rigorous intervention evaluations
- All evaluations are built around theories of change of our programmes All evaluations adhere to DAC principles i.e. should include issues of gender, marginalized communities and active citizenship (http://www.oecd.org/development/evaluation/2755284.pdf)
- Our endeavour is to keep monitoring systems simple yet dynamic. Monitoring tools should be user-friendly and the information generated should be useful for communities, partners, programme managers and donors.
- Monitoring processes are simple and, to the extent possible, digitized
- Partners’ involvement in the process draws from and builds on what is already being undertaken in the field.
The Oxfam India (OIN) MEL framework is meant to ensure a two-way accountability and sharing of learning at all levels, essential to review strategies in favour of more effective and sustainable programme results. We do this through our broad portfolio of monitoring, evaluation, and learning, within which we provide technical and coordination support to Oxfam’s programmes and partners Our role, inter alia, includes:
- Advisory support
- Policy input
- Systems and process design
- Tools development
- Capacity building: developing knowledge and attitudes
- Learning –contribute to a culture of continuous reflection and learning through organising processes and ensuring quality inputs
- Ensuring input to managers to support evidence for informed decision-making
- Internal and external influencing
…While MEL colleagues have a distinct contribution to make, MEL is the responsibility of all staff…..
MEL roles are, therefore, intimately linked to the overall objective of monitoring, evaluation and learning activities to improve program quality. As such, it is an indispensable contributor to Oxfam India’sprogramme management and quality control. Our standards for MEL ensure that we-
(a) Use empirical data to improve our work
(b) Engage people and partners and empower them to contribute to designing systems and assessing what works and what does not
(c) Provide credible, unbiased public evaluation of our work to donors, governments, partners, and interested citizens
(d) Apply the most rigorous methods and learning processes.
In Oxfam India, we define our broad result areas in longer term Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs) and further break them down into Annual Plans. We assist our thematic leaders in setting up indicators that are appropriate and measurable. At programme levels, the results are defined through need analysis; are aligned with PIP result areas; are tracked through Monitoring systems; and are evaluated for their effectiveness.
Monitoring: Monitoring systems are meant to track project progress in a concurrent manner. Through regular (monthly/quarterly) monitoring, we essentially track the following across programmes and themes:
- Reach and Diversity
- Technical inputs -Training and capacity building measures
- Process Information- Meetings and Consultations
- Program Progress-Activities and immediate outputs
- Communication Activities
- Campaign’s Activities
- Advocacy Activities
Evaluation: Evaluation is one of the most critical functions towards assessing effectiveness and generating lessons. It also encourages the culture of transparency and public accountability within the organisation. As a policy, all programmes go through independent evaluation, and if required mid-term evaluations. Further, Oxfam India also undertakes strategic or thematic evaluations cutting across programmes.
We encourage the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, depending on the nature of data required. We ensure that all evaluations must be made available to stakeholders and constituents in ways that allow them to fully understand the strengths, weaknesses and progress of Oxfam India’s work.
Learning: Learning for improving is one of the key drivers for Oxfams. While programmes have inbuilt opportunities for documenting and sharing lessons, the MEL activities provide several defined ways to ensure that learning is generated, synthesised and used for improving performance. Wherever required, we use various means to evaluate our programmes during implementation. Peer learning exercise across teams, partners, and locations are a common method used by our programme managers. Practice notes, Learning Reports and documenting strategies also provide ample resource to gauge how we are doing and what needs to change.
Moving Forward: Oxfam India’s strategy for 2016-20 suggests to set up explicit and clear mechanisms for partners and the community to influence programmatic strategies, decisions, revisions, and definitions of and future declarations of success or failure. It also encourages investments in systems and capacities to support MEL and recommends that a certain percentage of programme budgets should be allocated to MEL activities.