There are two basic forms of external accountability for a community development agency: stewardship accountability and results accountability.
- The agency must be accountable for how it has allocated resources; auditing is the process that demonstrates the degree to which the agency has achieved stewardship accountability.
- The agency must also be accountable for keeping its promises as represented in project goals and objectives; evaluation is usually thought to be the appropriate process for demonstrating results accountability. But I believe that trustworthy monitoring is the more appropriate process. Evaluation is better suited for learning about what works and does not work by evaluating theory of change undergirding development projects.
When a development agency has major constraints on resources for accountability I recommend that they invest them primarily in risk-based auditing and trustworthy monitoring, and secondarily in evaluation. Regarding evaluation I recommend that the agency partner with other agencies to pool resources so that experienced evaluators can do sound evaluations related to community development theory. Evaluations that merely document achievement of project goals and objectives are inferior to trustworthy monitoring. (To explore this proposition see Michael Scriven’s description of the goal-achievement model for evaluation, goal-based evaluation, and goal-free evaluation in Evaluation Thesaurus, fourth edition, Sage Publications, 1991.)
In the 1990s I prepared a number of materials to assist community development workers in monitoring community development projects. In 1996 this material was organized into a Guide that was made available to development workers in World Vision International.
In 2000 I prepared the document, “Monitoring Principles”, for WVI project managers and development workers. I organized some of the material from the Guide around five principles.
In 2002 I expanded the 1996 Guide with other materials that I had prepared for workshops on monitoring. My objective was to apply common monitoring principles within the typical work context for World Vision International development workers.
Since then the technical literature for program monitoring has expanded greatly, and various approaches have been adopted and advocated by major donor agencies. Terminologies differ across approaches, different aspects of monitoring are emphasized, and complexity has become the norm.
For EvalFrank.com I have taken sections from the three documents and formatted them as posts for the blog. I have deleted some material specific to the WVI context and added some notes that reflect my thinking in 2014.
The post, “Introduction to project monitoring,” describes the monitoring approach and general principles for monitoring transformational community development projects. Click LINK to go to this post.
The post, “Understanding work standards, project objectives, and results indicators,” is my attempt to deal with monitoring terminology issues for these central concepts. Click LINK to go to this post.
The paper, “Creating a project monitoring system,” describes how I prefer to use common monitoring terms (monitoring system, monitoring plan, monitoring procedure, etc.) My objective is to clear away some of the ambiguous use of terms I have encountered as I have worked with development workers in about 40 countries over a period of more than 25 years. Click LINK to go to this post.
The Paper, “Principles for reviewing a project monitoring system,” organizes information around five basic principles. I also show what is required for increased rigor in writing objectives and indicators. Click LINK to go to this post.
These four posts provide basic information for creating effective project monitoring systems for community development projects. If you search “monitoring” on this site you will find a number of other posts on different aspects of monitoring. I welcome your comments that will help me understand this important topic at a deeper level.