Monitoring and Evaluation: A necessary tool for Social Change


With COVID-19 revealing the divides between the haves and the have-nots and continuously skyrocketing social inequality, the role played by monitoring and evaluation cannot be downplayed. At its core, monitoring and evaluation provide us with answers in terms of how we are moving towards a society that is more just and equitable. We need to track the progress we are making with the National Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals, and monitoring and evaluation is one of our most important scientific tools to do that objectivity.

Social Scientists define social change as the transformation of cultures, institutions, and functions. We see three primary roles that M&E plays in bringing about such change.

Firstly, monitoring and evaluation are essential because they assist social investors and funders to identify and respond to key issues. For instance, unemployment rates in SA in the first quarter and second of 2023 have been recorded at 32.9% and 32.6%, respectively, according to the Quarterly Labor Force Survey. The availability of data allows decision makers, the Government, and funders to channel data towards alternative economies to curb unemployment rates and subsequently monitor and evaluate if there are changes based on interventions geared towards unemployment.

Secondly, M&E allows project implementers and funders to assess if progress is made in achiev­ing expected results, to spot bottlenecks in implementation and to highlight whether there are any unintended effects (positive or negative) from an investment plan, programme or project and its activities. Social change is fostered when bottlenecks are identified and resolved, thus ensuring that programmes achieve their outcomes and impact. Without monitoring data, it would be difficult for implementers to identify problems before they have adverse effects.

Thirdly, accountability is promoted using monitoring and evaluation. Evaluations periodically measure how and to what extent human and financial resources have been used efficiently and effectively. In South Africa, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation has the responsibility of coordinating government evaluations, thus holding different municipalities and departments accountable in efforts to address inequality, poverty, and unemployment. At Social Surveys Africa, we have conducted evaluations as commissioned by clients, and this has helped them to promote accountability and transparency. The evaluations have also shown how efficiently and effectively were both financial and human resources used to achieve programme objectives. Evaluation findings can draw attention to social injustices and help build the evidence base that can lead to policy and economic reforms, as well as designing more impactful development projects.

In conclusion, M&E is an essential tool that organisations can use to foster social change because of its strength in providing rigorous data that is required to create an equitable and just society. Therefore, it will be easier for decision-makers to make funding decisions with data provided by impact measurement and management. At Social Surveys Africa, we continuously provide our clients with technical support to ensure that they have valid and precise data to enable them to make informed decisions.

Evaluation findings are also used to craft strategies, develop and update M&E Frameworks for monitoring implementation and work closely with key stakeholders to ensure that social change is happening systemically.

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