It is a tricky issue: Every M&E trainers and every textbook on results-based monitoring encourages development projects to carry out their monitoring jointly with their political or implementing partner organizations. It makes intuitive sense: As you work on a project together, you will want to collect and share information on how things are progressing and together discuss success or failure in achieving results. On the practical side, you simply rely on your partner’s information. On top of that, it has a capacity-building aspect as well: Awareness for results (rather than mere activities) and data collection, management and analysis skills never hurt.
All good reasons to involve partners.
However, oftentimes in practice, I hear just as many reasons not to involve partners: Their data come too late or are not up-to-date. Sometimes capacities (both skills and resources) are missing and partners change too often to make it worthwhile to invest in capacity building. Language and logistics can be an issue too. In sum, it is sometimes faster and more reliable to just collect the required indicator information and do the reporting oneself. Because at the end of the day, reporting needs to get done – and on time.
Equally valid reasons not to involve partners.
I’ve got one very nice good practice example: energypedia consult once built a web-based monitoring system for an agriculture promotion program in Nepal. Partner organizations (agricultural cooperatives) were expected to feed data about their members, their products, annual turnover and the like into the system, because these figures were needed for reporting and outcome assessment. To encourage partners to take on this active role and not just deliver without getting anything back, a win-win-situation was created: The very same database was used to digitalize, systematize and update the cooperatives’ member management. The cooperatives got a say in the design of the database to make sure it captured the data they needed internally: Names and addresses of members, status of the fee, types of businesses and so on. This way, the database benefits both parties.
To be frank, unfortunately I cannot quote this case as a full success story. Unexpected developments and changes in national requirements for monitoring are the reasons that the database it still not used at its full capacity. But real success stories on this issue seem to be rare – that’s why I am writing this article.
What is your experience with directly involving partner organizations in data collection, analysis and reporting? Is my perception and experience with this too negative? How do you create more of these practical win-win-situations?
I appreciate your input and look forward to some good practice examples.
All the best from Kigali,