Designing the Right Data Collection ToolsMonitoring and Evaluation is one of those things you really need but sometimes tend to take for granted, you know exactly what we are talking about here right? You see when undertaking Monitoring and Evaluation at whatever level it is always important to get things right. If you are a programme or project coordinator, where does Monitoring and Evaluation truly begin? well it all begins at the planning stage. Now right after you have established your logframe and established your indicators can you have a general idea on how your data collection tools will look like. Now there is one important principle when it comes to data collection tools and data collection itself, DO NOT BE TOOOOO AMBITIOUS. Lets just see what that really means, don't say you were never warned?
Ambition vs the Reality, the Reality of Monitoring your ProgrammesWhen creating data collection tools in Monitoring and Evaluation you will always have to relate them with your indicators of the programme or project because that is really what you want to measure and report on. However often times organizations become too ambitious in what they would like to achieve given the limited resources and capacity. You will be surprised to find how big a list of indicators that organizations plan for but because of limited resources and capacity, the whole system fails simply because it was too ambitious. When designing data collection tools it is highly important to visualize the reality and really understand what you can collect and what you cant. Here are the following scenarios you would have to make sure to design effective data collection tools.
1) Selecting the right indicators: Quit right your log-frame will contain over 20 indicators which need to be collected semi-annually or annually but as programme or project coordinator you know the reality right? There is no way given the limited capacity you have will you be able to collect all those 20. Besides the staffing is limited, you are not just overseeing one particular programme but have other pressing issues to attend to. Besides, you have no funds to make any additional recruitments....this thing happens all the time. Now instead of designing tools that capture all the 20, why not just select the indicators you can actually collect and monitor regularly. Often times we want to be too ambitious without realizing the long term results of taking such a step. The solution??? Trim those indicators down.
2) The organization structures in place: Developing data collection tools should closely relate with the current structures for data collection that you already have in place. Structures are very important in data collection. Now if your programme or project is targetting over 70,000 beneficieries, it is impossible for you to collect information from all these beneficiaries realistically speaking. Ofcouse sampling may be a possible solution but lets face it, there is still need for structures and people in place that will collect this information. These people could be field staff or volunteers. So the key question is, how will information finally get to you? who will collect it and how often? When designing the data collection tools it should always be tailored to address the different levels of information capturing, analysis and reporting. Sounds confusing huh? don't worry this could just be the beginning.
Process of Designing Data Collection ToolsThe process of designing data collection tools is really straightforward if you come to think of it. Really the process is wonderfully simple. The principle in designing monitoring and evaluation data collection tools is that it should always be participatory.
1) Review the programme or project document; Before designing the data collection tools make sure to review the programme or project document understanding in full detail what the indicators are. When you are able to understand the indicators then can you visualise how this data will be collected. In most cases, the programme or project document will contain the Monitoring matrix which could be highly useful for you.
2) Create the data collection tools: Make sure to create the data collection tools and share it with stakeholders and the actual staff who will be involved in the data collection process. By doing this, you will be making the process more participatory and allowing for further comments from the users. To improve the usage of the data collection tools in Monitoring and Evaluation, you can trial test the data collection tools on the target group.
3) Tailor the tools to the structures in place: Make sure to tailor the data collection tools to the structure of information flow in the programme or project. By doing this can you make sure that the data collection process from grassroot is highly and effectively done with very few challenges.
Take Monitoring and Evaluation to a whole different level folks!