Guidelines for Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Plan
The MacArthur Foundation approaches all of our work dynamically. Our plans are never static. As such, we anticipate that applicants to 100&Change will offer plans that are also dynamic. To offer additional guidance to those applicants, we place a high priority on monitoring, learning, and evaluation. Further, we value monitoring, learning, and evaluation activities that are capable of adapting, as the context may change and as the work evolves, yet sufficiently rigorous to document and measure results, learn from them, course correct, and adapt, as necessary. If you are selected as a 100&Change Semi-finalist, you will be required to submit a detailed plan for monitoring, learning, and evaluation. Please take time to understand how the MacArthur Foundation defines those terms and the questions that a Semi-Finalist will need to address.
- Monitoring is a process for systematically collecting data and information (e.g., ongoing documentation, landscape tracking, organization performance/capacity assessment). Monitoring includes collecting information to assess your project’s performance and the progress toward intended changes (outcomes) of your Foundation-supported work.
If you are selected as a Semi-Finalist, you will need to outline your plan for monitoring the types of information that you expect to document, track, and assess over time, such as measures of scalability, uses of resources, understanding the landscape after your grant award, and whether a solution has evolved over time and the local conditions that may also have evolved. The structure, leadership, vison, and capabilities of your team are important element of your monitoring plan. And, if relevant, we want to understand any public policy implications or potential threats to your solution that may arise.
Here are some of the issues that we expect you to address in your monitoring plan:
- What are the immediate results of your solution (your outputs)? Results are the most direct measures of a process or activity (e.g., numbers served, frequency or duration of an activity etc.). Name the measures that you plan to track and explain why those outputs are important.
- Explain how you intend to document or track your activities and results. What resources (beyond MacArthur funding) are available to support your monitoring activities?
- What are your intended milestones (i.e. important events or key points in your project)?
- Evaluation is a systematic and objective assessment of your work and is used to measure the expected changes or contributions (impact) of the project over time. Evaluation is critical to determine if your project is on track to meet its targets, to understand “what works,” and to identify if the project is meeting any expected changes and impacts. The MacArthur Foundation requires that an evaluation should be conducted by an external evaluator (an individual or group/team that is not a member of your project or organization/collaboration). That external cost should be reflected in your 100&Change budget as a line item. We understand that your evaluation plan may be subject to further refinement once you’ve identified your external evaluator.
If you are selected as a Semi-Finalist, you will need to outline your plan to measure progress toward the achieving the specified results of your solution. Any Semi-Finalist will identify measurable outcomes. Outcomes are the direct benefits of your intervention (solution) as well as other changes that may be a consequence of the intervention and that might dilute or detract from those intended benefits. Among the types of questions we expect to be addressed are the following:
- Who are your intended or targeted beneficiaries?
- What changes do you expect?
- How will changes be measured?
- How will you know what is working, why, under what conditions and for whom?
- What are your data sources (e.g., primary or secondary)? What are the potential sources for data collection (e.g., survey, interview, or focus groups)?
- What methods and/or specific instruments will you use to ensure that your findings are recorded against a constantly evolving set of conditions?
- Learning involves the synthesis and application of information and insights from multiple sources (monitoring data, evaluation results, engagement with impacted communities and experts) to build knowledge. Learning occurs incrementally and iteratively over time and is used to reflect on how a project is meeting its intended and unintended changes, what is and is not working, and ensure a solution is effective and remains relevant. Learning should be broadly shared to inform others working on similar problems.
If you are selected as a Semi-Finalist, you will need to outline your plan for learning. Among the types of questions we expect to be addressed are the following:
- What is the most important thing that you intend to learn from implementing your proposed solution?
- How do you intend to use learnings to strengthen the implementation of your project over time?
- What will be your sources of information other than monitoring data and evaluation results?
- How do you intend to document and disseminate your findings and to whom?