4 tips for effective partner capacity development when implementing an M&E system for a large-scale complex program

One of the critical challenges in managing an M&E system for a large program –which includes several projects implemented by various organizations– is to get quality and consistent data for the indicators. Each partner organization (here called implementing partner or IP) has their own M&E system, which is designed based on their organizational requirements and resources. Moreover, each organization is at a different capacity level. In order to bring everyone to the desired level of capacity, it is critical to build their capacity and the M&E system so that they are able to report with timely and quality data.

In this article, we list 4 tips to ensure effective partner capacity development.

1. Start with a capacity needs assessment

Since one or two training sessions are not enough to fill the IPs’ capacity gap, it is advised that multiple training and coaching sessions are conducted. The capacity development process should be initiated by carrying out a quick assessment on the capacity development needs, including the M&E system. Such assessments should be carried out by the people who manage the M&E system for the program.

A detailed report should be produced, which will present:

  • findings
  • needs
  • recommendations
  • training plan/outlines

2. Design relevant training sessions

Once the needs assessment is completed, a number of training sessions need to be arranged to cover the components of an M&E system, such as:

  • the ToC
  • results chain
  • indicators and meta-data
  • logframe
  • M&E plan
  • data collection tools
  • data pathways
  • surveys and assessments
  • data management
  • reviews and evaluation

Such a training course requires at least a period of two weeks to extensively cover all the modules.

Capacity development training is usually presentation based –where a trainer makes several presentations and allows participants to ask questions. Our experience shows that such generic training is the least effective. It is recommended that the capacity development expert(s) for the training course should spend a good amount of time preparing and tailoring training material and curricula to the audience's needs.

Each module should have:

  • specific learning objectives (learning outcome)
  • topics to be covered
  • key takeaway messages
  • training methodology (trainer notes)
  • resource material
  • presentation
  • group work exercises
  • homework
  • knowledge tests, etc.

Each module should specify clearly what skills/knowledge will be transferred to the participants. By preparing the training material, the focus of a module is more specific, and the learning outcomes are more visible.

3. Select relevant trainers

It is strongly recommended that trainers should be identified based on the module's requirements. It is possible that a single trainer may not be qualified to cover all the modules. For example, a person with proven experience in the Theory of Change topic, Logframe, results chain and indicators needs to be engaged to cover results chain and indicators.

The same person may not be ideal or qualified and might not have considerable experience to provide training on data management or data quality assessment.

Since the training will be provided to M&E professionals, and they will come up with several technical questions, a trainer with the relevant background will be better positioned to answer those questions by giving the relevant examples.

4. Cover additional training needs with targeted sessions

We believe that one training course may not be sufficient to fully achieve the objectives. Even by attending a training – the IPs may still need targeted capacity development. For example, the staff of an IP might have attended the training, but still, they need more support to be able to transfer that capacity and skills to strengthen their M&E system. In order to cover such needs, it is advised to arrange targeted coaching, which focuses on the specific needs of the IP. Coaching proves very useful –and gives quick results in terms of enhanced capacity and system– especially those related to M&E.

Donor organizations are moving from individual project level programming toward umbrella programs which consist of several small and large projects with a single Theory of Change, Results Chain, Indicators, and Reporting System. In order to timely report on the program level indicators by the IPs, they need to have the required capacity to design or align their project-level M&E system with the program-level M&E system and the donor reporting requirements. Training programs for IPs on M&E can maximize their capacity and ultimately lead to effective monitoring and evaluation of projects.

The team of ActivityInfo would like to warmly thank Mr. Maheed Ullah Fazli Wahid for this practical guide on effective partner capacity development during M&E systems implementation.

Maheed Ullah Fazli Wahid is a high-profiled M&E expert with demonstrated experience in designing and managing M&E systems for multi-billion-dollar programmes focusing on humanitarian and development interventions. Currently, he is the Senior M&E System Manager for the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) which is a programme consisting of over 100 projects covering projects in sectors such as Education, Health, Livelihoods, Cash Distribution, Protection, Municipal Infrastructure, and Migration Management.