August Month & Learn: Monitoring Resources for a Robust MEL System
The USAID Monitoring Toolkit is a resource for USAID staff members and external partners who manage or implement USAID efforts. All the toolkits on Learning Lab, including the Collaborating, Learning and Adapting, and Evaluation Toolkits, aim to make practices found in the USAID Program Cycle more accessible to the development community. From guidance to templates, the toolkits offer practical resources to help you in your work.
We’re excited to announce that our August Month & Learn theme is ‘Monitoring Resources for a Robust MEL System’! We’ll be diving into the Monitoring Toolkit with curated highlights from the USAID Program Cycle team. Monitoring at USAID is used to determine whether USAID programming is accomplishing what it’s meant to achieve, what effects that programming is having, and how to adapt to changing environments. Monitoring information from Missions enables USAID as an Agency to understand its achievements at a corporate level and tell its story to Congress and the American people.
Take a look at our focal themes by week–first up: an orientation to the different components of the Monitoring Toolkit:
- Week 1: Overview of Monitoring Toolkit
- Week 2: Data Quality Assessment Resources and Good Practices
- Week 3: Most Commonly Used Monitoring Resources
- Week 4: Activity Level Data (including a sneak preview of new job aids and we want your feedback!)
Follow along on Twitter, at @USAIDLearning, as we highlight new and classic content throughout the month. A link to every piece of featured Monitoring content will be added to the bottom of this page so you won’t miss out.
Have a resource, tool, tip, or experience around monitoring? We want to hear from you too! Share resources or blogs related to your own experiences and lessons learned.
Week 1: Monitoring Toolkit Overview
Monitoring is the ongoing and systematic tracking of data and information to inform adaptive management and promote accountability. To help with this effort, the USAID Monitoring Toolkit provides USAID staff members and external partners access to the latest resources and guidance.
- Monitoring in the Program Cycle – Learn about the critical role monitoring plays throughout the Program Cycle in determining whether USAID is achieving its goals.
- NEW RESOURCE: Collecting Feedback from Development Program Participants is now live on the Agency Policy and Initiatives page. The guide aims to help USAID implementing partners integrate the collection and use of program participant feedback into their USAID-funded development activities.
- Monitoring Approaches – Learn about ADS-required performance and context monitoring approaches that can support a well-rounded monitoring plan.
- Monitoring Indicators – Learn about selecting indicators, determining baselines, and setting targets.
- Monitoring Data – Learn about helping to ensure that data are of sufficient quality for decision-making.
- Analysis, Use, and Reporting – Learn about the final, critical steps of analyzing, using, sharing, and reporting data.
Week 2: DQA Resources and Good Practices
The Monitoring Toolkit’s suite of resources on Monitoring Data covers data quality, data collection, and data storage and security. This week, let’s dive into data quality. High-quality monitoring indicator data are the cornerstone for evidence-based decision making and build confidence in USAID programs. To be high-quality, performance monitoring indicator data must meet the Agency’s five data quality standards. Data Quality Assessments (DQA) can verify whether data are meeting these standards. USAID requires a DQA be conducted on all data reported to an entity external from the original Mission or Washington Operating Unit (OU) that collected the data. But it’s not just USAID staff (such as the Program Office, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) specialists, Contracting Officer’s Representatives/Agreement Officer’s Representatives/Government Agreement Technical Representatives) that should know about DQAs. Implementing partners, third party M&E support contracts, and others support the DQA process.
Check out this week’s highlighted resources to learn more:
- Data Quality | USAID Learning Lab – Learn about USAID’s high data quality standard for ensuring that data are of sufficient quality for decision-making.
- How-To Note: Conduct a Data Quality Assessment (DQA) – Learn what data require a DQA, when DQAs are conducted, who is responsible, how to complete a DQA, and much more!
- Additional Help: Data Quality Assessment Checklist (DQA) – Learn how to assess each of the five aspects of data quality and best practices for documenting your findings.
Have a resource, tool, tip, or experience of your own around data quality? We want to hear from you too! Share resources or blogs related to your own experiences and lessons learned.
Week 3: Most Commonly Used Monitoring Resources
The Monitoring Toolkit has a wealth of information available to both new and experienced development professionals. The most popular pages in the toolkit can help you learn about the critical role monitoring plays throughout the Program Cycle, the different types of monitoring approaches, and the importance of monitoring indicators.
In addition to these popular overview pages, the monitoring toolkit hosts resources created by USAID experts. Below are the most commonly used monitoring resources in the toolkit:
- Complexity-Aware Monitoring Discussion Note – Learn about general principles and promising approaches for monitoring complex aspects of USAID development assistance. Complexity-aware monitoring is useful when results are difficult to predict due to dynamic contexts or unclear cause-and-effect relationships.
- How-To Note: Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan – Learn about required Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Plans used to support management of USAID activities and inform USAID and the implementing partner about activity progress toward results.
- Activity Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan Template – This template provides a recommended outline and basic guidance for developing an Activity MEL Plan as a USAID implementing partner.
- How-To Note: Prepare and Maintain a Performance Management Plan (PMP) – Learn practical steps for development and maintenance of a PMP. The primary audience includes Program Officers, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Specialists, Learning Advisors, technical officers, and Project Managers. Other development professionals can find useful information on how missions use the PMP to inform resource allocation for monitoring, evaluation, and CLA, portfolio reviews, and mid-course stocktakings.
What’s your go-to resource on monitoring? Tag us at @USAIDLearning and share! Or submit a resource or blog on this topic directly to Learning Lab.
Week 4: Activity Level Data
USAID recognizes the need for Agency staff to more effectively use data and information from USAID activities for ongoing management and decision making. Data and information come from a wide variety of sources related to USAID activities, including planning data (from award documents, Activity Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Plans, and budgets), and implementation data (from partner progress reports, evaluation findings, learning activities, and other sources). USAID also collects data through site visits, data quality assessments, and third party monitoring.
To contribute to improved data use, PPL has produced two new draft job aids to support Agreement Office Representatives and Contracting Officer Representatives (AORs/CORs) with reviewing regular reporting requirements for activity data use and planning and opening up dialogue with partners around data practices:
We want to hear from you! Please take a look and share any feedback by commenting in the comment tracker by September 7, 2023. Please follow the guidelines in the instructions tab when adding comments.
Once the job aids are finalized, see them in the Learning Lab Monitoring Toolkit!