This chapter started out with the aim of providing practical advice for people working to influence policy to build reflective and evaluative practice into their work to support decision-making and demonstrate progress.
Part 1 introduced nine ‘learning purposes’ – the overarching reasons for undertaking any kind of M&E activity that should drive the design and use of M&E. It proposed 35 individual measures for policy-influencing interventions across six categories (strategy, management, outputs, uptake, outcomes and context), and suggested how these could be used for the learning purposes.
Part 2 discussed how data could be collected both in real time, as the intervention is being carried out, and in retrospect, through detailed studies.
Finally, Part 3 turned to the important task of making sense of those data and putting them to use in decision-making and demonstrating impact.
Since the theme of the chapter has been evaluative practice, it is apt to conclude with a few final pointers on good practice:
- Put use at the heart of your monitoring, evaluation and learning to make sure any enquiry will have a positive contribution.
- Be grounded in theory from the beginning and test each stage as you go.
- Consider competing theories so as not to close down unintended effects.
- Embrace failure as just as good an opportunity to learn from as success.
- Invest in your monitoring and learning in proportion to the scale of your intervention: sometimes it is appropriate to use simple measures.
- Be conscious of rhythms and spaces in which learning occurs: it happens at different paces and different levels.
Finally, there is a traditional African proverb that encapsulates the attitude to take when developing M&E systems for policy influence: ‘we make our path by walking it’. Start by looking at what people are already doing, where data are already collected and the spaces that already exist for sense-making, and then work to strengthen and support those. If existing patterns are ignored, efforts may be wasted because people will always drift towards the familiar and the easy.