Practicing What We Preach: Using M&E To Develop The Learning Capacity Of The Aga Khan Foundation Tajikistan
Determining if development efforts have effected change in the quality of living is a tricky business. Measuring impact is yet another challenge that has gained importance with increasing numbers of NGOs all vying for the same donor dollar. Organizations are examining their programs in terms of results, all the while monitoring and evaluating their progress towards social missions. This paper will follow a case study of the M&E system of one such organization, the Aga Khan Foundation Tajikistan (AKFT), in order to examine and identify best practices for measuring and evaluating their efforts to serve the impoverished peoples of the country.
The case study focuses on a baseline study designed for a local governance project, the Tajikistan Governance and Livelihoods Programme (TGLP), being implemented in this Central Asian country. The study was commissioned by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP), an implementing partner of AKFT, and contracted to the AKFT Evaluation and Learning Unit (ELU). ELU then prepared the survey tools, trained fieldworkers for data collection, and prepared an analytical report of the results.
At the project level, the objectives of the baseline study were to 1) collect measurements on a series of good governance indicators; and to 2) identify capacity gaps that could be addressed through TGLP training. Changes between the baseline and endline studies would be used to measure the results of the programme.
At the policy or strategic level, AKFT has not been utilizing findings from its evaluations in order to contribute to the direction of project planning. To this end, this paper will examine the current capacity of the organization as a learning organization and propose strategies as to how they could derive greater benefits from the M&E system. This paper will exemplify, through utilization of the TGLP case study, how endline surveys can contribute more towards policy level decision-making. The analysis will suggest that endline studies can 1) collect measurements to compare to baseline data; and 2) capture contributions of both individual activities and the general project approach towards overall development goals. In this way, evaluation findings can contribute to advising policy makers in project planning as well as to mitigate assumptions that a given approach was an effective way of addressing community needs in the first place.