As they are intervening in complex human systems, capacity-development practitioners need to be flexible, adaptable and willing to learn from what they do. An important source of learning in real time is the processes and results of monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Bruce Britton explains M&E activities as they are commonly pursued and explores creative ways in which practitioners can use them for personal learning and selfreflection. He also provides suggestions on how this can be done under non-conducive organizational conditions.
Monitoring and Evaluation for Personal Learning
By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is ...view middle of the document...
In doing so they can undermine the self-confidence of the practitioners involved. The negative effects of this are experienced in different ways: at an organizational level in terms of frustration over unachieved goals and at an individual level as poor performance and de-skilling. However, there is another way of viewing deviation from plans, namely by using divergence as experiencebased opportunities for reflection. In other words, the unpredictability and fluid nature of capacity development can be viewed not as a failure of planning but as an indication of the need for adaptability and an opportunity for learning. As capacity development practitioners become more experienced, they develop a deepening understanding of the complexity of the issues with which they are working. Using the insights generated through reflection, advisers can become more adaptable and flexible in dealing with the unexpected challenges and problems that arise in day-to-day work with clients. So, how can practitioners accelerate the pace at which they deepen their mastery of capacity development? One powerful way is through experience-based learning processes such as shadowing, coaching and action-learning. Unfortunately, not all practitioners have access to these structured experiential learning opportunities. However, practitioners can also develop their expertise using personal techniques for reflecting on and learning directly from their work. Using the formal feedback mechanisms of monitoring and evaluation is an important and often overlooked way to do so. This being said, using monitoring and evaluation in this way can be difficult because most of these systems are designed with other purposes in mind. The conventional view of monitoring and particularly evaluation sees them as processes that are used primarily for assessing performance and ensuring accountability, not for reflection and learning. Reasons for this are explored in detail in Chapter 21. Consequently, if monitoring and evaluation rigidly focus on performance management it may be necessary for the practitioner to ‘subvert’ these systems – in the sense of challenging and expanding their intended purpose – in order to maximize the learning opportunities they offer. This chapter examines how capacity development practitioners can use formal and informal monitoring and evaluation systems not only to assess progress towards intended outcomes but also, and just as importantly, for the purposes of self-improvement. In addition, by taking a creative approach to informal monitoring, practitioners can also create valuable opportunities for strengthening mutual support with colleagues. The rest of the chapter is organized as follows. We begin with a brief introduction to the monitoring and evaluation of capacity development initiatives, also discussed in more detail in Chapter 18. The chapter then focuses on what can be characterized as the conventional purposes and uses of both monitoring and