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Integrating the Monitoring at All Stages

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Workshop Handout

Monitoring is an integral part of every project, from start to finish

A project is a series of activities (investments) that aim at solving particular problems within a given time frame and in a particular location. The investments include time, money, human and material resources. Before achieving the objectives, a project goes through several stages. Monitoring should take place at and be integrated into all stages of the project cycle.

The three basic stages include::
  • Project planning (situation analysis, problem identification, definition of the goal, formulating strategies, designing a work plan, and budgeting);
  • Project implementation (mobilization, utilization and control of resources and project operation); and
  • Project evaluation.

Monitoring should be executed by all individuals and institutions which have an interest (stake holders) in the project. To efficiently implement a project, the people planning and implementing it should plan for all the interrelated stages from the beginning.

In the "Handbook for Mobilizers," we said the key questions of planning and management were: (1) What do we want? (2) What do we have? (3) How do we use what we have to get what we want? and (4) What will happen when we do? They can be modified, using "where," instead of "what," while the principles are the same.

The questions become:

Where are we?
Where do we want to go?
How do we get there? and
What happens as we do?

Situation Analysis and Problem Definition:

This asks the question, "Where are we?" (What do we have?).

Situation analysis is a process through which the general characteristics and problems of the community are identified. It involves the identification and definition of the characteristics and problems specific to particular categories of people in the community. These could be people with disabilities, women, youth, peasants, traders and artisans.

Situation analysis is done through collecting information necessary to understand the community as a whole and individuals within the community. Information should be collected on what happened in the past, what is currently happening, and what is expected to happen in the future, based on the community's experiences.

Information necessary to understand the community includes, among others:
  • Population characteristics (eg sex, age, tribe, religion and family sizes);
  • Political and administrative structures (eg community committees and local councils);
  • Economic activities (including agriculture, trade and fishing);
  • Cultural traditions (eg inheritance and the clan system), transitions (eg marriages, funeral rites), and rites of passage (eg circumcision);
  • On-going projects like those of sub-county, district, central Government, non Governmental organizations (NGOs), and community based organizations (CBOs);
  • Socio-economic infrastructure or communal facilities, (eg schools, health units, and access roads); and
  • Community organizations (eg savings and credit groups, women groups, self-help groups and burial groups), their functions and activities.

Information for situation analysis and problem definition should be collected with the involvement of the community members using several techniques. This is to ensure valid, reliable and comprehensive information about the community and its problems.

Some of the following techniques could be used:

  • Documents review;
  • Surveys;
  • Discussions with individuals, specific groups and the community as a whole;
  • Interviews;
  • Observations;
  • Listening to people;
  • Brainstorming;
  • Informal conversations;
  • Making an inventory of community social resources, services and opportunities;
  • Transect walks, maps; and
  • Problem tree.

Situation analysis is very important before any attempts to solve the problem because:

  • It provides an opportunity to understand the dynamics of the community;
  • It helps to clarify social, economic, cultural and political conditions;
  • It provides an initial opportunity for people's participation in all project activities;
  • It enables the definition of community problems and solutions; and
  • It provides information needed to determine objectives, plan and implement.

Situation analysis should be continuous, in order to provide additional information during project implementation, monitoring and re-planning. Situation analysis and problem identification should be monitored to ensure that correct and up dated information is always available about the community and its problems.

Since monitoring should be integrated into all aspects or phases of the process, let us go through each phase and look at the monitoring concerns associated with each.

Setting Goals and Objectives:

Goal setting asks the question, "Where do we want to go?" (What do we want?).

Before any attempts to implement a project, the planners, implementors and beneficiaries should set up goals and objectives. See Brainstorm for a participatory method to do this.

A goal is a general statement of what should be done to solve a problem. It defines broadly, what is expected out of a project. A goal emerges from the problem that needs to be addressed and signals the final destination of a project. Objectives are finite sub-sets of a goal and should be specific, in order to be achievable.

The objectives should be "SMART." They should be:

Specific: clear about what, where, when, and how the situation will be changed;
Measurable: able to quantify the targets and benefits;
Achievable: able to attain the objectives
     (knowing the resources and capacities at the disposal of the community)
Realistic: able to obtain the level of change reflected in the objective; and
Time bound: stating the time period in which they will each be accomplished.

To achieve the objectives of a project, it is essential to assess the resources available within the community and those that can be accessed from external sources. See Revealing Hidden Resources.

The planners, implementors and community members should also identify the constraints they may face in executing the project and how they can overcome them. Based on the extent of the constraints and positive forces, the implementors may decide to continue with the project or to drop it.

The goals and objectives provide the basis for monitoring and evaluating a project. They are the yardsticks upon which project success or failure is measured.

Generating Structures and Strategies:

This aspect asks the third key question, "How do we get there?" (How do we get what we want with what we have?).

The planners and implementors (communities and their enablers) should decide on how they are going to implement a project, which is the strategy. Agreeing on the strategy involves determining all items (inputs) that are needed to carry out the project, defining the different groups or individuals and their particular roles they are to play in the project. These groups and individuals that undertake particular roles in the project are called "actors."

Generating the structures and strategies therefore involves:

  • Discussing and agreeing on the activities to be undertaken during implementation;
  • Defining the different actors inside and outside the community, and their roles; and
  • Defining and distributing costs and materials necessary to implement the project.

After establishing the appropriateness of the decisions, the executive should discuss and agree with all actors on how the project will be implemented. This is called designing a work plan. (How do we get what we want?). A work plan is a description of the necessary activities set out in stages, with rough indication of the timing.

In order to draw a good work plan, the implementors should:

  • List all the tasks required to implement a project;
  • Put the tasks in the order in which they will be implemented;
  • Show allocation of the responsibilities to the actors; and
  • Give the timing of each activity.

The work plan is a guide to project implementation and a basis for project monitoring. It therefore helps to:

  • Finish the project in time;
  • Do the right things in the right order;
  • Identify who will be responsible for what activity; and
  • Determine when to start project implementation.

The implementors and planners have to agree on monitoring indicators. Monitoring indicators are quantitative and qualitative signs (criteria) for measuring or assessing the achievement of project activities and objectives. The indicators will show the extent to which the objectives of every activity have been achieved. Monitoring indicators should be explicit, pertinent and objectively verifiable.

Monitoring Indicators are of four types, namely;

  • Input indicators: describe what goes on in the project (eg number of bricks brought on site and amount of money spent);
  • Output indicators: describe the project activity (eg number of classrooms built);
  • Outcome indicators: describe the product of the activity (eg number of pupils attending the school); and
  • Impact indicators: measure change in conditions of the community (eg reduced illiteracy in the community).

Writing down the structures and strategies helps in project monitoring because they specify what will be done during project implementation. Planning must indicate what should be monitored, who should monitor, and how monitoring should be undertaken.


Monitoring implementation asks the fourth key question "What happens when we do?"

Implementation is the stage where all the planned activities are put into action. Before the implementation of a project, the implementors (spearheaded by the project committee or executive) should identify their strength and weaknesses (internal forces), opportunities and threats (external forces).

The strength and opportunities are positive forces that should be exploited to efficiently implement a project. The weaknesses and threats are hindrances that can hamper project implementation. The implementors should ensure that they devise means of overcoming them.

Monitoring is important at this implementation phase to ensure that the project is implemented as per the schedule. This is a continuous process that should be put in place before project implementation starts.

As such, the monitoring activities should appear on the work plan and should involve all stake holders. If activities are not going on well, arrangements should be made to identify the problem so that they can be corrected.

Monitoring is also important to ensure that activities are implemented as planned. This helps the implementors to measure how well they are achieving their targets. This is based on the understanding that the process through which a project is implemented has a lot of effect on its use, operation and maintenance.

When implementation of the project is not on target, there is a need for the project managers to ask themselves and answer the question, "How best do we get there?"

Summary of the Relationship:

The above illustrates the close relationship between monitoring, planning and implementation.
It demonstrates that:
  • Planning describes ways which implementation and monitoring should be done;
  • Implementation and monitoring are guided by the project work plan; and
  • Monitoring provides information for project planning and implementation.

There is a close and mutually reinforcing (supportive) relationship between planning, implementation and monitoring. One of the three cannot be done in isolation from the other two, and when doing one of the three, the planners and implementors have to cater for the others.


Monitoring the Mobilization and Organizing:

Monitoring the Mobilization and Organizing

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
Web Design by Lourdes Sada
Last update: 2011.09.30

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