IMPES

Principle Five

 Invest in Monitoring, Evaluation, & Learning (MEL)

IMPES

5. Principle Five

Invest in Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning (MEL)

Invest the resources you have available in developing robust monitoring and evaluation processes, and place a high value on team and organisational learning in order to strive towards constant improvement. 

The reality is that high-quality MEL requires time, expertise, and in some cases, money. There is no magic wand to fast-track the evaluation of your work. It is therefore essential that you have full leadership buy-in on the importance and value of MEL, and see it as a vital investment in your ESO’s future and the future of the enterprises you support. Evaluating your work goes far beyond assessments and reports for funders, so be careful not to get stuck in that mindset. Most importantly, it provides insights that can help you learn and develop your programs and services, ensuring that as time goes on and you support more entrepreneurs, the support also increases in value. 

Equally, it is important that funding partners who provide financial support to ESOs also leave adequate space for an ESO to invest in MEL, whether that be through Human Resources, technology, data storage, or operational functions. 

Finally, know that MEL is a process that you will evolve over time. Each project and program provides you with more learning and experience, allowing you to improve how your MEL process is put into practice. Set aside time at the start and end of each program to review and make incremental changes and improvements.

Invest the resources you have available in developing robust monitoring and evaluation processes, and place a high value on team and organisational learning in order to strive towards constant improvement. 

The reality is that high-quality MEL requires time, expertise, and in some cases, money. There is no magic wand to fast-track the evaluation of your work. It is therefore essential that you have full leadership buy-in on the importance and value of MEL, and see it as a vital investment in your ESO’s future and the future of the enterprises you support. Evaluating your work goes far beyond assessments and reports for funders, so be careful not to get stuck in that mindset. Most importantly, it provides insights that can help you learn and develop your programs and services, ensuring that as time goes on and you support more entrepreneurs, the support also increases in value. 

Equally, it is important that funding partners who provide financial support to ESOs also leave adequate space for an ESO to invest in MEL, whether that be through Human Resources, technology, data storage, or operational functions. 

Finally, know that MEL is a process that you will evolve over time. Each project and program provides you with more learning and experience, allowing you to improve how your MEL process is put into practice. Set aside time at the start and end of each program to review and make incremental changes and improvements.

Home 5 The IMPES Principles 5 Principle Five: Invest In Monitoring, Evaluation, & Learning
5.1 Make your investment in MEL proportionate to your ESO’s size, capacity, and journey

If you are at an early stage of growth, investing time and resources into MEL may be a shared responsibility across the team and should be championed by your ESO’s leadership. As you grow and are able to further invest in resources, MEL should be as much of a priority as other parts of your organisation, including program delivery and operations. Over time, consider investing financially in regards to your team’s time (how much time they dedicate to participating in MEL across the organisation and programs), MEL-dedicated staff, team training, and data management systems. 

Financial investment in MEL also means budgeting for MEL, whether this be staff salaries, systems, or processes (such as data collection, storage, and management tools). Include MEL expenses in budgets and proposals, and clearly communicate the need for this with your partners. 

5.2 Build MEL into your organisation’s DNA and daily practices, and ensure all team members understand the importance of MEL and their role in the MEL process

ESO leaders should place a high value on MEL from as early as possible. Rather than being reactive to annual evaluations or strategic workshops, consider how you can build MEL into your daily practices. This could include regular training and capacity building for your team, regular reflection on what your MEL data is saying, or training for your leaders in MEL principles and methods. This could also mean investing in systems and processes so that MEL is not dependent only on specific people but embedded in your organisation’s daily practices. 

ESOs should ensure that MEL staff are not the only ones who understand the process and importance of MEL. Rather than hearing “MEL isn’t my job” from your team, you should be hearing “MEL is part of everyone’s role”. 

5.3 Engage skilled MEL professionals internally within your ESO and externally where possible

Recognise where your leadership are not experts in MEL and engage skilled professionals accordingly as soon as it is financially feasible to do so. Build MEL staff and systems into your operational budget and funding proposals. Having one to two people on your team dedicated to Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning will not only improve your work but will increase your capacity to learn from, improve, and scale your work further. 

Conducting an external evaluation of programs when possible can also further validate your measurements and findings, bringing more credibility to your work, or highlight valuable areas for further learning and growth. 

5.4 Prioritise learning; analyse your data to learn, adapt, and continuously improve

Data collection does not mean anything unless you utilise that data. As a team, make time to regularly analyse the data collected from entrepreneurs and programs, reflect on what this analysis is telling you, and identify areas of learning. Use these lessons to adapt your work accordingly and strive towards continually improving the services you provide. 

Inclusive practices should be considered, planned for, and incorporated into program activities right from the start. Reflection processes provide an opportunity to assess how program activities and outcomes impact people of different genders, people from different socio-cultural backgrounds, and people with disabilities, and what changes could be made to strengthen their inclusion.

Commit to sharing these learnings with your key stakeholders, such as funders and entrepreneurs. Be open and transparent with your partners about lessons learned through MEL and what actions and improvements you are making as a result. 

5.5 Leverage your impact measurement to attract entrepreneurs and to provide a strong case for investment in your work

Your data can provide value for your ESO as a business case for investment and growth. Be transparent with entrepreneurs about your results, particularly those that may attract them towards your programs. Remember to use a mix of hard numbers and storytelling to clearly communicate the results of your work. 

5.6 Develop monitoring and evaluation indicators of inclusive practices

Inclusive practice is a process that itself requires monitoring and evaluation. Conducting monitoring and evaluation that allows for the disaggregation of data is an effective way of measuring the inclusivity of your programs. As part of developing a Theory of Change during the planning phase of your program or business, ESOs should identify which aspects (or ‘drivers’) of inclusive practice are relevant and within their capacity to influence. They should then develop relevant tangible indicators and targets to include in monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

For example, including indicators related to the inclusivity and accessibility of your ESO’s programs for women, people with disabilities, indigenous or marginalised groups, etc. can encourage your team to actively strive towards more inclusive practices. 

Tools & Resources

Resources:
Free data collection tools:
Paid MEL systems, CMS systems and Impact Communication tools:

The principles in practice

For an early-stage organisation, MEL is usually part of everyone’s job. However, as an ESO grows and adds more enterprises to its portfolio, MEL increasingly becomes an important responsibility that needs to be held by a team member (while also continuing to engage the rest of the team).

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For an early-stage organisation, MEL is usually part of everyone’s job. However, as an ESO grows and adds more enterprises to its portfolio, MEL increasingly becomes an important responsibility that needs to be held by a team member (while also continuing to engage the rest of the team). 

Examples of steps to take when ‘investing’ in MEL, depending on your ESO’s size, financial health, and pipeline of programs include: 

  • Value MEL at leadership level: The leadership of an ESO needs to make MEL part of everyone’s agenda and ensure it is highly valued across the organisation. This could mean engaging the team in the review and/or development of a Theory of Change and MEL Framework (what impact do we want to create, and how can we know if we are achieving this?). Once an MEL Framework is developed, the leadership team needs to ensure that the organisation continues to regularly review and reflect on the lessons learned from the programs and data and to use these learnings to adapt and improve the ESO’s work accordingly. 
  • Hire an MEL team: this could start with one person, who over time may require another team member to work with them. The MEL team should be responsible for the implementation of an MEL Framework, including overseeing data collection, conducting data analysis, and reporting the subsequent lessons learned. 
  • Invest in MEL systems: this could include a client management system, data collection tools, and a robust database for effective data storage and management. These often come at a high cost, and many ESOs will invest in them when they experience growth and find that their data management is too messy to effectively manage (e.g. data is not streamlined or stored in one place). 
  • Budget for MEL consultants and/or external evaluations: ESO leaders are not necessarily MEL specialists. It can provide significant and long-term value to your organisation by bringing in an external specialist to guide the team in the development of an MEL Framework. Likewise, budgeting for large external project evaluations can bring additional credibility to your work and MEL and can provide deeper insights, learnings, and recommendations for improvements and changes. 

Note that one of the biggest investments in MEL will be your time. Engaging your team, developing a Theory of Change and MEL Framework, regularly reflecting on learnings, adapting programs accordingly, setting up new data collection tools and systems, etc. take a significant amount of time from the leadership and all team members. Therefore, before beginning this process make sure that you are clear as a team about investing the necessary amount of time, scheduling in advance, and agreeing on the right time to make this investment. 

THE PRINCIPLES

A set of living, open source Guiding Principles for ESO Impact Measurement, led by a Community of Practice, and developed with input from key stakeholders.

Explore by Principle, or start with

1: Understand what success looks like for entrepreneurs

2: Measure the Health of your ESO

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3: Measure immediate, intermediate and long-term outcomes

4. Understand and align with the goals of key stakeholders

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5. Invest in Monitoring, Evaluation, & Learning (MEL)

6: Practise data collection methods that are accessible for diverse entrepreneurs

7: Validate what you measure

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