Jeroen van der Sommen asked me yesterday to help him describe Akvo’s approach to what the international development world calls “monitoring and evaluation”. Often abbreviated to M&E, this is basically the process attached to an international aid programme that monitors whether the programme did what it was supposed to do, and perhaps understand other things it did as well. Or at least that’s my interpretation of it – let me know some others out there…
Anyway, here’s what I wrote. It’s designed for “Request For Proposals” so excuse the presence of light jargon.
Our approach to monitoring
Akvo is committed to making the process of development cooperation much more open, transparent and effective. Established as a non-profit foundation, it builds and operates internet and phone-based open source monitoring and reporting tools that are designed to show project activity online while it is being implemented. This is in stark contrast to traditional monitoring and evaluation in the development sector, which is often done at the end, can be designed to justify activity or budgets, and is often conducted by people disconnected from the programmes themselves.
Akvo’s approach brings project activity online openly as the work happens. This means monitoring is about results rather than justification, and means that if something is going wrong it can be acted upon right away. It also gives much more voice to those working on the ground – Akvo tools are designed to share activity from the field level upwards.
Akvo tools are also built to work across all partners involved in a programme. This makes it easy to get monitoring in place right from the beginning of multi-million dollar initiatives, right down to individual project locations or infrastructure points. This is in contrast to many development sector monitoring systems that are organisation-centric, or driven by outside consultants. Often these systems are slow to get going and are difficult to build deep into the values and working methods of the teams doing the actual work.
We’ll keep refining and working on this.
Mark Charmer is a co-founder and communications director of Akvo.