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CLEAR Week: Diva Dhar and Urmy Shukla on Designing Courses for M&E Capacity Building: Lessons from South Asia

We are Diva Dhar (Program Director) and Urmy Shukla (Capacity Building Manager) at the CLEAR South Asia Regional Center, based at J-PAL South Asia at the Institute for Financial Management and Research.

We work to strengthen M&E skills in South Asia, focusing on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. As part of our work, we conduct custom workshops and M&E technical advisory services for government, NGOs, donor organizations, and associations of professional evaluators. Recent examples including capacity building workshops with Population Council (Bangladesh), the Sri Lankan Evaluation Association, USAID/India, and the Indian Administrative Services.

In this post, we put together a few helpful lessons for designing customized M&E courses and technical advisory services.

Lessons learned: Know your audience! Many different organizations seek out M&E capacity building services, each with different needs, skills, and interests. Needs assessments are a useful tool to better understand your partners’ M&E background and goals. The results of these needs assessments will help you design customized courses and services that target your partners’ specific M&E needs and interests. Organizations also appreciate the effort in getting to know them better.

Needs assessments can be conducted in a variety of ways:

  • Online forms and surveys
  • Structured or semi-structured interviews
  • Diagnostic tools to review organizational systems and processes

Hot Tip: While online surveys are faster and easier, they are often produce inaccurate results. Respondents tend to under- or over-estimate their M&E skills and knowledge, and we often do not get enough information on specific challenges in implementing good M&E practices. Interviews are time-consuming, but helpful in getting a better understanding of M&E practices and abilities.

Lessons Learned: Needs assessment interviews need to be framed correctly to be useful. Organizations should be informed that these exercises are for learning and training purposes, and are not meant to be an appraisal on their M&E capabilities. This also helps in getting buy-in for the needs assessment exercise, as well as ensuring that employees are available for interviews.

Cool Trick: When planning workshops, use the needs assessments to divide participants into more uniform groups for break-out sessions or facilitator-led group exercises. This can be done based on their M&E skills, interests, or focus areas. This ensures that each group can be taught at their level and with relevant examples. For example, participants working on health projects with a basic level of M&E understanding can be grouped together. Similarly, facilitators or trainers can also be assigned to groups based on their levels and interests.

Rad Resource: Check out CLEAR South Asia’s Interactive Course Guide – a quick and easy-to-read manual on conducting effective and interactive training events.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CLEAR. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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