How are media assistance programmes being monitored and evaluated? How can such M&E be improved? This report from the Center for International Media Assistance finds that useful tools include: gathering baseline data; content analysis; balancing quantitative and qualitative data; and employing outside evaluators to conduct impact assessments. Donors should increase funding for the M&E of media assistance projects and should help develop a shared but adaptable approach to M&E. Organisations could save money by exchanging non-competitive information (such as baseline data) and should ensure that time spent on project M&E is costed.
During the early ’90s, international media assistance was transformed from a small field to a multimillion-dollar global endeavour. Initially, monitoring and evaluating these programmes was not recognised as important. However, interviews with donors, media assistance implementers, and professional evaluators indicate that monitoring has become more rigorous and evaluation has become a part of almost all media assistance programmes.
The M&E terminology and methods applied to media assistance vary greatly. M&E requires constant adaptation and variation, but common tools, techniques and approaches that have been used successfully include: baseline data to characterise the situation that the project is meant to address; logframes to ensure that a project’s steps progress logically; content analysis to track the effect of media assistance on media outputs; balancing quantitative and qualitative data to combine statistics and compelling narratives; and employing outside evaluators to assess a project’s overall impact (but handling data reporting, compilation and some analysis in-house). Other findings are that:
- There are divisions over how—or whether—even the most meticulous evaluation can establish cause-and-effect relationships between programmes and societal change.
- Donors, implementers and evaluators agree that creating an M&E plan in the earliest stages of project design is essential to the success of monitoring efforts.
- Media assistance practitioners agree that M&E is expensive, but struggle to calculate its actual cost. Many in-house functions do not appear as discrete line items in budgets.
Donors should increase funding for the M&E of media assistance projects and make funding conditional on the implementation of scrupulous M&E requirements. Recommended actions also include the following.
- Develop a shared—but adaptable—approach to M&E methods: Donors should agree on certain definitions and standards and include them in the M&E requirements of grants or contracts.
- Share non-competitive information: Implementers and donors could share much more information than they do now without giving away their competitive edge. Sharing country- and region-specific baseline data, for example, could save organisations a considerable amount of money.
- Adapt bookkeeping practices to better reflect M&E outlay: Undertaking M&E is foolish without knowing its true cost. While money paid to outside evaluators can be easily calculated, the costs of in-house M&E should also be determined. Organisations should set a target proportion of project budgets for M&E and adhere to it.