II: Theories, models and concepts in monitoring and evaluation research

Theories of monitoring and evaluation

Evaluation theories serve as the fulcrum or knowledge base of the evaluation practice helping to shape the present and future practices of evaluation. However, due to the difficulty of earlier evaluation theories to respond to the initial mandate of evaluation needs, several evaluation theories were advanced. The need for guidance on how evaluation should be done was prominent in the early years of the development of the evaluation field which saw prominent evaluators prescribing what they believed was the way to conduct an effective evaluation. The evolution of the evaluation theory tree (ETT) prescribes social accountability and enquiry and epistemology as the foundation for the development of evaluation. Further, three main paradigms that guide the evaluation practice are method, value and use. The method branch of evaluation is founded on the positivist social science paradigm which focuses on realising the objective truth about the causes and effects of programmes and the generalisation of findings, whereas the value branch of evaluation is theoretically founded on the constructivist paradigm which suggests that reality is socially constructed and that knowledge is also created by our own experiences. Finally, the “use” branch focuses on how and who will use the evaluation findings. The understanding of these theories will guide the development of monitoring and evaluation systems to achieve specific needs of evaluation.


Monitoring and evaluation has specific objectives to achieve. The focus of M&.E is to guarantee project success by ensuring that projects meet cost, schedule, quality and satisfaction targets (Tengan & Aigbavboa, 2016). However, achieving project success is tedious and complicated (Berssaneti & Carvalho, 2015; Tengan & Aigbavboa, 2016). Implementing M&E ensures resources and processes/activities are efficiently and effectively utilized to ensure the right output and outcomes are achieved as well as the achievement of project impact. The likelihood of continually achieving project success will largely depend on how systematically and continuously the monitoring process is undertaken and the interplay of therelationship of various independent factors. Again, achieving M&E objectives requires evaluators to understand why the need for the evaluation, who will make use of the evaluation findings and how the evaluation would be done. It is only after such understanding is gained that true meaning will be given to the practice.

Monitoring and evaluation theory defined

The origin of M&E is rooted in the perception of public sector failures as early as the 1950s (Cameron, 1993). However, the concept of evaluation occurred in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s with support from the federal government under the strategies of “war on poverty” and “the Great Society” (Waithera & Wanyoike, 2015). Some projects underperformed (failed) which led to the creation of an independent M&E unit with responsibilities ranging from collecting data, pro-cessing and analyzing the same (Cameron, 1993). The M&E departments’ responsibilities also included reporting on project performance against original targets to ministries and international agencies. M&E has been around for a while and has featured in many disciplines of study and practice. These include finance, governance, agriculture, development project and health. M&E for accountability and systematic social enquiry has been the focus or truck of evaluation research (Alkin & Christie, 2004). Notwithstanding the long-standing profession and availability of literature on the subject matter, the ultimate object and impact in project delivery can be questioned since projects do not conform to quality standards, cost overruns and completed beyond schedule and general dissatisfaction by project stakeholders.

M&E as a project management function is a key driving factor for achieving project success. As noted by Kamau and Mohamed (2015), M&E is a critical success factor (CSF) in project delivery. Achieving project success (PS) is nearly impossible without the constant M&E which has been found consistent with literature and practice (Ika et al., 2012; Kamau & Mohamed, 2015; Papke-Shields et al., 2010; Prabhakar, 2008). Also Kibebe and Mwirigi, (2014) ranked ineffective M&E as the number one management factor that contributed to project failure. The above reiterate the importance of M&E in the construction industry. Even though M&E are two management functions undertaken closely together to achieve stated goals and objectives of projects, two schools of thought exist regarding their relationship. Whereas M&E are seen as two separate functions by many evaluation scholars, others have argued the inseparable nature of the two management functions (Musomba, Kerongo, Mutua & Kilika, 2013; Omonyo, 2015).

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