Vibha projects are monitored at regular intervals and the intervals could vary on the basis of the impact, budgets and resource availability of the different projects.
Project monitoring at Vibha could be divided into two categories - Monitoring Methodology and Monitoring Mechanism.
Monitoring methods will be very project specific. There is no general formula to monitoring. It can be described as a three step process.
- Checking honest implementation of the project.
- Looking at process indicators.
- Looking at status (impact study).
Checking honest implementation of the project
This is the simplest monitoring step. A project proposes to do something which is given in the project proposal and this step is to evaluate if they have made a serious and honest attempt to do what they have proposed. This is a step that can be formed using any of the monitoring mechanisms including field visits by volunteers or patrons. For e.g., in Baikunthapur Tarun Sangha (BTS), a project we support in West Bengal, India, this level of monitoring would mean verifying that there are functioning day-care centers, that there are the required number of staff members and that there is activity in every center. One does not need to be an expert in evaluating projects to check the honest implementation of a project.
This is the second level of monitoring and requires following up on individual programs at the project on a periodic basis. Once project honesty is assured, a good and simple reporting format provides the required information. Regular meetings and visits provide a better feel for the progress of the project. In process monitoring, Vibha tries to look at how effectively the programs are done. Vibha tries to look at creativity, depth of understanding and online program corrections and evaluates the positives and negatives in the program cycle. Process monitoring is very useful in learning how a program works. Knowledge sharing between different projects and programs is a critical element in process monitoring. However, process monitoring is evaluating the work from a remote and independent perspective. Independence of the reviewer from the day-to-day activity but with a feel of what is happening enables the reviewer to see how sensible the actions on the ground are and to suggest appropriate modifications in the program. For eg., in BTS this would mean looking at monthly reports of work done in each center, looking for patterns and trying to see where tasks can be more effectively executed.
This is done using a two-pronged approach. The project monitoring team utilizes the visit reports of volunteers to gauge the consistency of the information and the progress of the project. The quarterly reports in combination with visit reports can be used to evaluate the progress of the project.
This is a very important but reasonably difficult kind of monitoring. This looks at the real change that the program has brought about by evaluating the pre project and post project situation. Most NGOs do not think in terms of this level of monitoring. Vibha considers this component to be critical to project monitoring and hopes to accomplish this by creating an infrastructure of people and like minded organizations who can serve as both resource for the project and as evaluators for Vibha.
The reviewer, develops a measurement index that is based on local demographic variables and project variables. This index is holistic and is capable of taking into account a number of program outcomes. The program or project is then evaluated on this index at regular intervals that include but are not limited to the start of the project and at the end of one funding cycle. However, a reasonable caveat in this case is that this is not an evaluation of what work has been done but rather an evaluation of what changes the program has brought about. Pre and post evaluation followed by an analysis can show how much real change the program or project has brought out. This evaluation methodology has to be done with care and in consultation with the NGO, looking into several kinds of indicators. Using a very narrow index can hide the danger and make the NGO work like a typical target-oriented government program! For example, for the Baikunthapur Tarun Sangha some indicators would be changes in the cognitive development of children in the day care centers or the adaptation of child-friendly toys by staff members. On the other hand, the number of slide shows conducted is not a status evaluation, it is a process evaluation. Interpreting this evaluation is also a difficult process and will have to be done with care. The aim of the implementors and their expectations and what we expect out of the program may not be what the NGO was expecting to do. Also it is important to understand that evaluation of status also depends on what was put in. (Process, funds, resource person support etc). Status changes or process changes are measured keeping in mind the initial base line. For example, a center that gets Rs 5000/- worth of materials in one year will not be compared on the same scale as the center which gets Rs 500/- worth of materials every year. Similarly, a program that is new and not yet fully established is graded much more leniently than one which has been running for a long time and has had time to do things much more effectively.
Vibha's project monitoring mechanism includes the following components:
- Project visits by volunteers or donors.
- Project reports - financial and non-financial.
- Evaluation by Vibha Fellows or independent agencies.
Project Visits by Volunteers or Donors
Vibha volunteers and donors are encouraged to visit Vibha projects and evaluate them. Every time a volunteer or donor visits a Vibha project they are requested to perform an evaluation of the project and the impacts in addition to their visit. Vibha's Projects Team volunteers have created a framework and enabled the infrastructure for other volunteers or patrons to perform this task with ease. The methodology for evaluation is consistent with that mentioned in the above section.
Project Reports - Financial and Non-Financial
Vibha requires projects to submit financial and non-financial reports at regular intervals. The intervals vary depending on the nature of the projects and the quantum of funding. Vibha's Projects Team volunteers evaluate the individual projects using these reports and the monitoring methodology highlighted above.
Evaluation by Vibha Fellows or Independent Agencies
Vibha employs "Vibha Fellows" in India or partners with independent project monitoring agencies. The Vibha Fellows or independent agencies are experts in development projects and the local demographics. They conduct spot evaluations of projects, impact studies and other activities consistent with our project monitoring methodology.