Reporting is a house of cards.
But how do we know that we succeeded?
And how do we even define success?
Of course, impact is the 'pot of gold' of development. It's harder to measure, it's a shared development aim and so depends on the efforts of others - development agencies, projects. governments, civil society - and it's near impossible to attribute. If there is impact, we can't say it's solely because of us. Those colourful flip charts may have been inspiring, but claiming they led to poverty reduction depends on so many other factors.
Which is why evaluations don't just limit themselves to the higher level results, but are typically more broad ranging. Depending on donors' requirements, they will look at a range of areas such as project preparation and design - who was involved? Were the right activities carried out during preparation? Did the design reflect what was learned?
How relevant was it? And how did the project adapted itself over time to stay relevant to the target community's / project end-users' needs?
Were we efficient? Did we do things right? Did we deliver on time and to budget? Could we have done better?
And what about effectiveness? Did we do the right things? Did all those workshops and community meetings lead to change?
Quality, sustainability and replicability come under the spotlight, too; as do lessons learned, where we turn our experience of problems encountered and (hopefully) overcome to share with others and make future projects more successful.
Now that's the top of the house of cards - the evaluation.
And they all rest on the humble monitoring report. Those regular investigations, where we take the pulse of project to see it's in good health; where we listen to the reactions and feelings of stakeholders, compare targets to actual delivery and measure progress towards lower level results.
And if those reports aren't up to scratch, the whole house of cards will come falling down. There's no basis for review, and no foundation for realistic evaluation.
So our reporting has to be consistent, from the bottom up. Reporting is more than just a way of measuring success at the end of a project - it's also an ongoing process where we regularly examine and monitor the health of the project and conduct periodic check-ups.
All reports, then, matter. And if our evaluations are going to be a true representation of the project's achievements, they need to be based on sound evidence and a history of consistent, reliable reports.
And however good your Management Information System might be, your team need to be skillful reporters as well as implementers.
They need to:
- Be able to set / understand the reporting objectives
- Have realistic expectations
- Select the right methods and use the right tools
- Collect and analyse data
- Describe and explain what was learned
To keep projects on track. To respond to what is learned. And to contribute to successful evaluations.
There's a lot to it, and it's not always easy to even find training that goes beyond the dry, technical aspects and actually helps people become reporters - investigators who have a process they can follow every time they report from setting objectives to the final edit.
Our Reporting Skills & Professional Writing online training does just that. It gives you a process you can use every time to:
- Prepare for data collection
- Analyse data
- Plan your report around clear objectives
- Draft and edit your report so it's clear, actionable and persuasive
And you can sign up now.
It's a self-paced training, allowing you to develop your skills while applying them in your own work.
Click below to join.