Seven Trends in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

By Susanne van Lieshout, MDF Asia Myanmar Director and M&E Advisor

We all know the importance of M&E in the development sector.  MDF has trained and accompanied hundreds of organizations in M&E across the globe in all sectors of development for 35 years. Here are some trends they have noticed.

1. More alignment to SDGs

With no less than 230 (sub)indicators under the 17 Social Development Goals, expected impact are well defined. It is increasingly essential that all development programs (at impact level) align and contribute to these.

2. New indicators bridging social and financial impacts

New funding modalities are supplementing or replacing traditional donor funding. There is a shift towards private sector and foundations.  New indicators need to reflect financial progress (return on investment, turnover) as well as social impacts.

3. More focus on Value for Money (includes financial monitoring)

‘Traditional’ donors also require more financial data collection. New approaches aim to assess the value of what has been achieved with their grants. Cost per beneficiary, cost-benefit analysis, historic or cross-country comparisons of expenditure versus impact are now often requested.

4. New methodologies to assess ‘contribution’ rather than ‘attribution’

The Gold Standard of randomized controlled trials, with control and treatment groups, is losing terrain. When designed well, this can lead to ‘attribution’ claims: for example sleeping under a bed net can directly decrease malaria incidence.  However, it is expensive to set up and does not work well for complex social interventions. A good alternative is the so-called ‘contribution analysis’. It assesses multiple factors and how they contributed to an outcome.

5. Diary keeping

Base- and endline surveys are also under fire. Criticized for being  ‘snap shot’ techniques. They often fail to collect meaningful info over a longer period of time. An alternative is the use of financial or social diaries. Beneficiary’s changes are tracked by themselves, or by monitoring officers.

6. Digital data collection, more open source, online storage and sharing

This trend started a while ago. However many organizations still need to be convinced of the advantages. Thanks to free platforms such as Kobo Collect, which allow offline data entry, data collection can now be done even in the most remote areas. This greatly improves efficiency and accuracy of data entry and analysis.

7. Responsible data sharing (instead of open data sharing)

With more internet-based data collection and sharing, come new challenges: data security. Some organizations like GIZ already adopted policies to avoid sharing on Google docs or forms. It is worthwhile discussing how an adequate data security protocol can be established.

Want to know more? Join an MDF training on Monitoring & Evaluation for Learning (26-29 November) in Bangkok, Thailand or contact at