Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Understanding a Baseline Study

Something no programme or project should do without

It is significantly easy to see why baselines are so important to projects or programmes in the developmental world today but so many times these days some organizations simply choose to ignore the burden of conducting a baseline study. When you want to conduct a baseline study you have that specific intention of establishing how a target group/area is prior to the implementation of the programme or project. In short, your main aim is to see what was there before....that's, THAT!!!! But you see some programmes don't even have a baseline to baseline would you believe that? There are many reasons why baselines are important especially at inception of the programme or project. But as it is some baseline to baseline studies have their limitations as well as their own opportunities. Before we bury ourselves into the importance of Baseline studies, lets get to understand the process.

Baseline Study process

As a programme coordinator or a Monitoring and Evaluation officer you should be aware of the process involved in conducting a baseline study. There are two significantly important things you have to do to make the monitoring and evaluation process a success.

1. Good Planning; A baseline study is a lengthy exercise that requires absolute commitment by the project or programme staff. You have to plan significantly well using everything at your disposal if you have to. Baselines start way back from the strategic planning process, that's why it is important for all stakeholders especially programme staff get involved. Good planning requires you to formulate a terms of reference for the consultant whose going to conduct the Baseline. The same methodology that is going to be used for the Baseline study will be the same methodology used in the evaluation......GOT IT!!!!! In your terms of reference make sure your consultant will be clear what you are measuring and he/she should have access to all programme documents or project documents....GOT IT!!!! Funds must be allocated to this activity as well.

2. Selection of a Sample Group;Ofcourse this had to come at some point don't you think? Selection of a sample group in Monitoring and Evaluation is actually part of the planning process. When selecting a sample group make sure its representative of the whole population because they are the ones you will have to get key values and results. Over the years, during the implementation of your programme or project you may experience times when some of your participants may not be available to respond to your questionnaire, What should you do? It is not advisable to administer a questionnaire without your presence because you being there is for objectivity purposes. However, the best approach though not the most popular would be to replace the participant who didn't attend the meeting with someone who has similar profile characteristics...So easy isn't it?

3. Interview questions and answers; The next step is to conduct a set of interviews with the sample group using your questionnaire. Remember its important to administer the questionnaire while you are present because that's the whole idea of you being a Monitoring and Evaluation person. Monitoring and Evaluation demands some level of objectivity, interview questions and answers similarly do. Make sure when setting your questionnaire you include key demographic variables such as the Name of participant, sex, contact details, age, marital status and other important variables. Interview questions and answers should work for everybody.

4. Analysis and Report Writing; Last but not the least of the Baseline study is Analysis and Report writing stage. When doing an analysis there are so many ways you can do the analysis, you can use excel or even SPSS. But don't bother yourself too much with SPSS if you don't know how to use it/. However when you are analyzing data you are simply trying to make sense out of the data you collected from the field or from other sources (secondary sources). A Monitoring and Evaluation report  should effectively communicate your findings in a friendly most way.

Importance of Baseline Surveys

Baselines are highly, highly important. One of the reasons which most of you may know about baselines is that they tell you about the prevailing situation before the actual implementation of the programme of project. But be sure to look for further articles on this blog which will highlight to you further reasons why Baseline surveys are important. In the meantime, continue to enjoy and the thrill of practicing Monitoring and Evaluation right in your doorstep.

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