Monitoring and evaluation

Family Strengthening: Monitoring and Evaluation

Children from the Family Strengthening Programme, Matagalpa, NicaraguaUltimately, the success of a programme is seen in the difference made in the lives of the children who make up our target group.  This goal guides every stage in the development of our programmes: 

Participation of key stakeholders is a core element in all stages of programme development.  In particular, we need to make sure that the voice of the children is heard, especially those within our target group; by giving them the opportunity to participate in ways that they are able to fully express themselves.  Special attention is also given to ensure that gender and other issues of discrimination which place children in a vulnerable position are addressed.

Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines

  • Potential programme locations are identified through a country analysis: Strategic decisions about future programme locations are made based on a country-wide analysis of the situation of children within our target group. Programmes are only developed in communities that meet set criteria, including evidence of high numbers of children who are at risk of losing the care of their family, lack of capacity within the community to respond to their situation, but likely community support for such responses.
  • The choice of a community is confirmed by a situation analysis: Building on the country analysis, further information is collected and analysed in the identified location. This includes key factors why children are at risk of losing the care of their family, the scale of this problem and which rights are being violated.  Gaps in existing responses are identified and the question of what our organisation can contribute is considered, reflecting on our expertise and availability of other resources. 
  • Key stakeholders are identified through a stakeholder analysis: Individuals, organisations and institutions who are interested or affected by the planned programme are identified, and their interests and possible involvement defined.  This will also lead us to organisations that have an interest and the capacity to be partners in the planned programme.  At this stage, the commitment of government authorities and other relevant stakeholders is secured. 
  • The programme is designed together with the target group and other key partners: Information is gathered through a household survey, including where children at risk are; the number and size of their households; the age and gender of care-givers; relationship with care-givers; sources of support for these children; and so on.  A participatory process is then used to identify the most vulnerable within our target group; what is already being done to address their rights, needs and priorities; what more needs to be done; who can do it; and with what resources.  Based on this research, a clear plan of action, as well as a monitoring and evaluation plan, is drawn-up.  Participation of children from the target group and their care-givers is essential.  During this process, programme partnerships are formalised, the support of government authorities is confirmed and strategies to ensure sustainability of the programme are developed.
  • Progress towards objectives is continuously monitored during implementation: The process of service provision and changes in the situation of the target group are monitored. When activities start, baseline information is collected from programme participants to assess the situation at the beginning of interventions, so that later judgements about impact can be made. This information is linked to the monitoring and evaluation plan and considers previously collected data. A consistent information gathering system is put in place to ensure that information is collected at programme level to inform programme development, and can be consolidated and filtered to meet information requirements of the wider organisation.
  • An annual planning process is implemented: Programme planning is carried out once a year together with the implementation partners, based on the organisation’s policy frames for planning.  Participation of members of the target group and other key stakeholders within the community is essential.  A key input to this process is a programme self-evaluation.
  • A programme impact evaluation is carried out every 3-5 years: This evaluation supplies valuable information on the achievement of the programme’s goal and objectives, evaluating the difference that the programme has actually made in the lives of the target group.  Relevant indicators for assessment of impact are defined as part of the monitoring and evaluation plan, during programme design. By comparing baseline information, gathered during programme design and at the onset of interventions with data collected later, impact can be measured. Such evaluations are carried out by external consultants and participatory approaches are used.
  • Sustainability of the programme is built: Our goal is that support services provided to children and families through the programme continue, even when our direct involvement ends. Based on strategies developed during programme design, we work together with our implementation partners and provide them with capacity-building support, with a view to their taking over full responsibility for running the programme in the long-term. In cases where implementation partners are unable to take responsibility for particular services, we may consider assuming such responsibility and secure local funding as a service provider, particularly through government funding sources. As our direct involvement in the programme within a particular community is reduced, any resources that are made available may be committed to a programme in another community.
  • Resources are used efficiently and responsibly: More children are reached primarily by investing in and working through people (our partners in community and/or SOS co-workers) rather than through additional buildings and equipment.  A full-time programme coordinator is put in place in each location, to lead the establishment and ongoing development of the programme.  The number of additional co-workers required for the efficient operation of a programme is defined during programme design.