Communication is a vital part of M&E that links the findings with the users. It is important that the true interpretation and meaning of M&E findings are communicated in response to the specific purpose of why the M&E was initiated in the first place.
A fully functioning M&E system provides a continuous flow of information that is useful both internally and externally. Internally, M&E information can be used as a crucial management tool towards achieving results and meeting specific targets. Information on progress, problems and performance are all central to success.
Such information is also important for learning and to build stronger external relations, as well as to identify other worthwhile activities and identify how to allocate scarce resources.
M&E information and data should be valid, verifiable, transparent and widely available to key internal and external stakeholders.
Collecting and dumping large amounts of data on managers is not helpful. Providing mounds of data and no analysis will not generate the information needed to improve programmes.
M&E systems provide important feedback about the progress, as well as the success or failure of projects, programmes and policies throughout their respective cycles. These systems constitute a powerful, continuous management tool that decision-makers can use to improve performance, and demonstrate accountability and transparency with respect to results.
So what exactly do we mean by ‘learning’ in a results-based monitoring and evaluation context? Learning has been described as a continuous dynamic process of investigation, where the key elements are experience, knowledge, access and relevance. It requires a culture of inquiry and investigation, rather than one of response and reporting.
Thus, M&E systems need to ensure that performance information moves both horizontally and vertically within and between partnering organizations.
The object of M&E is not simply to transmit information, but also to stimulate action.
The ‘communication channel’ or media chosen needs to be selected carefully, so that the message may be easily accessed by the ‘receiver’ and interpreted as closely to the intended message as possible.
A communications strategy describes how the key messages will be communicated to each stakeholder, and when. It is also important to consider how each stakeholder will use the information. This ensures that the information is prioritized according to their real need.
Things to consider when developing a communications strategy:
• What is your aim?
• Who are the different audiences? (exclusions?)
• What does each audience want or need to know and why (benefits)?
• What are the priorities (now and in longer term)?
• How complex is the information and how will it be used? (action or reference)
• What ratio of ‘main message’ to ‘background information’ will be most helpful?
• How will you reach each those audiences?
• What is their culture and attitude?
• What constraints are there and how might they be overcome?
• How many people and what geographical areas are involved? (exclusions?)
• What media is most accessible to them?
• When is the most appropriate time?
• What resources are already available?
• How will you define different types of evidence (e.g., perceived, substantiated)?
• Who will edit and how?
• Who will lead the communication locally?
• Is an exchange of information required?
• When will the change occur?
Let the team at Impact Management International help you with developing a communications strategy for your M&E System.