The monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning (MEAL) system is only effective when project teams use data to demonstrate and improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and, ultimately, the outcomes and impact of their projects. While gathering and analysing monitoring and evaluation information is crucial, even more, crucial is to inform management decisions, which in turn promotes and encourages accountability and learning.

Accountability: Accountability can be seen as a commitment to balancing and attending to the demands of all project participants, donors, project partners, and the organisation itself during project operations. Accountable projects will eventually be more effective since they will be more pertinent and more likely to receive support from stakeholders. In order to produce project results and uphold their commitment to accountability, project teams must take both proactive and reactive actions to fulfil the needs of the project’s main stakeholders.

The following three components make up a strong accountability mechanism:

  • Transparency in communications: Information and findings from monitoring and evaluation are shared with communities, partners, donors, and other stakeholders
  • Alignment with standards: Confirming that the project was carried out in accordance with the agreed-upon donor conditions and MEAL best practices
  • Responsiveness: Establishing avenues for stakeholders to communicate their opinions, suggestions, and grievances; and pledging to respond to them in a suitable manner on how their input is influencing project decisions

Learning: For learning, we must involve many stakeholders in a serious discussion of what is and is not working in our efforts to accomplish our stated goals. Learning means, having a culture and processes in place that enable intentional reflection with an aim of making smarter decisions.

The Key is to respect learning. Not all projects yield the desired results. Gathering and understanding the WHY is important. There project team and leadership should not be hesitating in seeing the facts that are counter-intuitive. Learning should be encouraged and rewarded.

How to ensure learning in a project? Learning can be ensured by establishing a work environment that encourages inquiry, questioning even difficult questions, and challenging presumptions in the pursuit of learning. Learning can be ensured by including specific learning components in meeting agendas, reporting, and project-related discussions.

If the above principles are actually used, projects and systems can be considered as having good learning systems.

Author: Paresh Kumar, CEO & Co-founder, DevInsights

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