In the mark of the European project SPARE , we asked (July 2016)  to a group of researchers and water management structures what were the principal constraints related to monitoring and evaluation. The point was the identification of the major common preconceptions about M&E.

 

 

 

 “M&E requires someone from the outside of the process”

 

FALSE : The evaluator(s) is/are not necessarily external to the participatory process. The process can also be evaluated by the facilitator (self-evaluation) or by the participants themselves (participatory evaluation). Each of these postures has advantages and limits. For instance, an external evaluator may have a more neutral vision of the process whereas the facilitator may easily collect data concerning participants’ perceptions. Participating to the apparatus, he/she can create relationships based on confidence.

 

 

 

 

 “It is difficult to measure qualitative indicators”

TRUE : Evaluating how the participants learned things about the river or how the participatory process created confidence between them is more difficult than knowing the number of participants or measuring the nitrates rate in a groundwater table. However, M&E methods do exist allowing the collection of qualitative data, for instance cognitive cartography, role playing games, or interviews. Concerning participatory processes M&E, qualitative AND quantitative indicators are essential.

 

 

 

 “It is a tool for control”

 

QUITE FALSE : If in some cases M&E is used by backers (sponsors) as a tool to control engaged resources, it is especially useful as a helping tool for the participatory process’ monitoring. It allows collecting information about the process, its impacts and the context of its implementation. It is useful to know if the process is on the right way to achieve its objectives or to observe the impacts of the mobilized participative methods.

 

 

 “Nobody wants to admit a failure”

 

TRUE & FALSE : It is true that failures are more difficult to accept than successes. However, failures are also opportunities to learn lessons (sometimes more than a success). M&E is a source of proposals for sharing formats, respecting the confidentiality of the persons , or for exchanges in small groups, which are more fitted to discuss what is considered as a failure.

 

 

 

 

 “M&E does not allow the measure of unexpected impacts”

 

FALSE : A “classical” M&E system is generally based on a comparison between “ex-ante” (before the process) and “ex-post” (after the process). In this case, indicators must be chosen ex-ante and completed ex-ante and ex-post. Nonetheless, this “fixed” M&E may be coupled with a more adaptive M&E. For instance, it is possible to add an open question in an evaluation questionnaire, which question the participants about the impacts of the process, some of it had maybe not been taken into account ex-ante. One has to find the balance between a fixed evaluation system (allowing the comparison of the “before” and the “after”) and an adaptive one (allowing to evaluate unexpected impacts).

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