Monitoring and Evaluation for Cash Based Interventions

The fundamentals of monitoring and evaluation are no different for cash transfers than for any other project. However, we need to keep in mind that projects for cash programming have some specific characteristics. One of the main characteristics is flexibility. For example, an unconditional cash transfer offers flexibility for our beneficiaries or project participants to choose how and where to spend the assistance. We need to be aware of the people who received the cash and be able to monitor and evaluate how this was spent.

We can also look at other details, such as how cash transfers impact household and community dynamics. With M&E, we need to be able to monitor the wider intended and unintended impact of cash transfers.

In this article, we will take a look at the objective, logical framework, and indicator selection for a CBI monitoring system. We will also explore the data collection process, and the role of technology in monitoring CBIs.

For an introduction to CBIs, take a look at the article Introduction to Cash-Based Interventions for M&E professionals

For real life examples of CBI systems in ActivityInfo, make sure to watch the presentations by the AVSI Foundation in Lebanon and the Cash Consortium in Yemen, led by the DRC

You can read this article in French and Spanish too!

Project monitoring for Cash Based Interventions: the objective

Our objective within the monitoring process is to create a solid basis in order to implement and put into action decision making. Monitoring should be used to check whether the project is delivering results in-line with expectations by helping identify priority areas for project adjustments or attention, what is working well in the project, and information that helps managers make decisions about resource allocation. Monitoring enables evidence-based decision making, which contributes to accountable practices.

Project monitoring for Cash Based Interventions: the logical framework

In order to give more context on the logical framework for project monitoring for CBIs, you can look at the image below, showcasing a logical framework. This diagram starts at the baseline, meaning we have data; we know the state of the country and the participants.

When we build our MEAL system, we need to determine “what we need to know''. For example, what do we need to monitor? Is it process monitoring, results monitoring, context monitoring, or risk monitoring?

Here, the crucial component is indicator selection, the core of every MEAL or M&E system. With the indicator selection, we think of how we are going to collect our data and analyze the information.

Project Monitoring for Cash Based Interventions: The Logical Framework
Project Monitoring for Cash Based Interventions: The Logical Framework

The next step is to verify and validate the data to guarantee that we gather consistent information. After that, we can use the data that has been generated by the MEAL system for project decision making, for providing feedback to beneficiaries and upper management.

Strong project monitoring will provide a solid base for project evaluation. The purpose here is to examine higher level objectives, lessons learned, best practices, and recommendations that can be used for other projects and increase accountability. The evaluation of cash projects presents particular challenges because people can choose to spend the money they receive in a wide variety of ways. Evaluations therefore need to look at whether cash has met the particular objectives of the project and the wider impacts of the project, intended and unintended.

Key Performance Indicators selection

Indicator selection is the core of what we do in the M&E system. The project context will have a large influence on the relevance and applicability of the indicators selected. It is essential to select the most useful indicators and then refine them to ensure they reflect the local context, and are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound).

It is essential to collect disaggregated data against all relevant indicators. Categories of disaggregation include age, gender, and vulnerability status. It is important to select a balance of both quantitative and qualitative indicators, as they play complementary roles. Multiple questions may be needed to assess progress against the selected indicator. And lastly, a mixed-method approach to data collection can help triangulate and verify the data collected from different sources.

Example of indicators used in high level objectives:

  • % of households who report being able to meet the basic needs of their households according to their priorities
  • % of households by Livelihoods Coping Strategies (LCS) phase (Neutral, Stress, Crisis, Emergency)
  • % of households where women report being involved in decision making on cash transfer (or voucher) use

Learn more about Indicators and their role in the path of building a MEAL system

Data collection methods and tools selection: best practices

When looking at data collection methods and tools we should look at the best practices, we want to collect useful information that is of high quality. We should also mainstream gender and equity into data collection methods and tools. When we carry out interviews, even when we choose who will participate, we need to be aware of gender and include everyone to collect information that represents all different groups in all different projects.

Read more about creating inclusive M&E systems

Furthermore, we should ensure accountability-focused questions (which can be qualitative in nature) are built into routine data collection tools. This can help improve the efficiency of monitoring. We should monitor the quality of complementary services. For example, Cash Based Interventions can be monitored together with social support. With the data collection methods and tools, we should be able to monitor project risks and changes in context. Also, we need to keep in mind that the chosen payment channel in Cash Based Interventions may provide additional data that can feed into a monitoring framework at little additional cost and in near real time. Lastly, we should select a range of data collection methods and tools to enable effective triangulation of the data.

Example of triangulation:

You can conduct surveys with more than one household member to determine if and how the cash transfer has affected different household members in different ways. You can then verify responses with focus group discussions of 5 to 10 people that represent the beneficiary population using observation in and around the household for evidence supporting or contradicting recipient responses. Then, you can track what people have spent cash (using card payment) or vouchers on, if the payment channel enables this, which could be used to triangulate household PDM data.

The use of technology in monitoring Cash Based Interventions: key approaches

There are many things that we need to monitor and evaluate that need to come together on a common platform. We need to combine what needs to be monitored through the MEAL system with data collection and ensure this corresponds to our project implementation flow. So with a comprehensive CTP (Cash Transfer Programming) platform, we can combine different data, such as:

  • Beneficiary registration and targeting
  • A wide variety of payment channels
  • Monitoring and evaluation surveys
  • Accountability feedback mechanisms

This is crucial, as it can be challenging to keep track of all the different sources that the data is coming from.

We also need to consider the built in pre-existing components of the organization and combine the existing technology in the organization, adding new components to support the extra requirements of cash programming.

The most suitable approach for the use of technology for a given project will depend on various factors, such as:

  • Nature and scale of the transfers
  • Level of capacity within implementing partners
  • Existing technology infrastructure
  • Budget and resources available

In conclusion, we need to look at the importance of adapting M&E practices to the unique characteristics of Cash Based Interventions, ensuring effective monitoring through a logical framework, carefully selected indicators, and inclusive data collection methods. Lastly, the integration of technology is essential to ensure comprehensive and accurate information for decision-making and accountability.

Take a look at the article Building a monitoring system for Cash Based Interventions: case study and database template for more practical information based on a sample case study and a database template that you can start using in the ActivityInfo platform.

Sources and further readings: