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PMOE should be a management tool above all for the beneficiaries, but also for the project staff, government agencies, NGOs and donors. It is indispensable for securing active participation of all project participants in the assessment of the progress of a project.

13.1 Participatory Monitoring

In order to obtain useful information on project progress, successes and failures and to develop a methodology for its expansion and replication, the beneficiaries, participation agents and other project participants should all be involved in developing and applying a locally workable monitoring and evaluation system.

Participatory monitoring is a process of measuring, data collecting, processing and communicating to assist the beneficiaries and project staff in decision-making. The purpose is to provide all concerned with information as to whether project objectives are being achieved and whether the operations, performance and impact of a project is "on course". The information should also indicate inadequate operations, shortfalls in performance and discrepancies between planned objectives or predicted impact and those achieved in order to modify inadequate objectives and rectify project deficiencies (Huizer, 1982).

In order to set up a workable participatory monitoring system the beneficiaries are to be motivated in particular and this implies that:

a) their felt needs, desires and problems are taken into account;
b) simple, understandable and attractive methods are introduced and repeatedly explained[9]; and
c) the results are presented to them on a continuous basis and by adequate means including regular group discussions and audio-visual aids.

Participatory monitoring is to be conceived from the beginning as part of the group formation and action process. Therefore, not only the baseline and benchmark data need to be recorded, discussed and kept to be used later, but also effective recording is to be undertaken of inputs, outputs, workplans and progress made in strengthening the cohesiveness of the groups and/or organizations of the beneficiaries.

Records are to be kept of the (bi-)weekly group meetings on major problems discussed, decisions made, actions undertaken. This is to be done by each group with elementary (standard) forms designed with the groups, and contained in some kind of simple log-book. The items of such forms are to be reviewed periodically in order to verify their usefulness. Each group has to learn also a minimum of bookkeeping in order to keep track of inputs and outputs related to credit and savings. This bookkeeping goes parallel with the recording of group loans and repayment by the agency (bank) concerned. A systematic accumulation of data on loans and repayment as well as simple cost-benefit analyses give essential insights into the quality of groups to manage their affairs and improve their conditions.

The group members would also benefit greatly when each of their households would record cash in-and outflows on simple schemes.

Monitoring is usually hard to introduce to (illiterate) peasants. It can be made simple for them by using e.g. symbols, pictures and graphics. Even literate children of group members may be engaged as "secretaries*' in groups in which none of the members is literate. Training of group members in functional literacy remains of course, of utmost importance.

Monitoring could give much satisfaction to the beneficiaries and also considerably facilitate benchmark and/or other studies including on the "thorny" issues of income and expenditure of households.

In sum, the main tools of participatory monitoring are: 1) recording of group meetings, workplans, progress made, problems met, etc. in group log-books; 2) group bookkeeping for inputs, outputs, credits, savings, etc.; and 3) action-research (see Section 11).

13.2 Participatory Evaluation

On-going evaluation is the systematic analysis by beneficiaries and project staff concerned of the monitored information with a view to enabling them where necessary, to adjust or redefine the project's objectives, policies, institutional arrangements, resources and activities (Huizer, 1982).

Participatory evaluation should also take into account the needs and desires of the beneficiaries and include self-evaluation on an individual and group basis by all project participants in order to strengthen local capabilities for self-learning and joint problem-solving. In particular the rural people themselves are to discuss what progress they are making and how to overcome what problems. The rural poor groups should also evaluate the activities of the delivery system in order to improve its performance. This helps groups to "talk back", to pick up issues which have not been dealt with by the delivery system and to identify its bottlenecks. The results may be brought up in field workshops.

If evaluation is done in the above ways, it will stimulate critical awareness and motivation for better group self-management. The self-evaluation results need to be presented systematically to other project participants at local and higher levels.

The evaluation should include not only the tangible and measurable results of group activities but as much as possible also their spill-over benefits that improve the group members’ economic, social and integral human development. For example, acquiring skills in speech, writing, presenting ideas logically and clearly, overcoming shyness in dealing with officials and conducting meetings; furthermore, learning to solve problems including household conflicts through dialogue, inculcating thrift habits. record keeping and money management techniques as well as gradually reducing vices like gambling, alcoholism and gossiping, and also group-wise helping persons in acute necessities like house building or land preparation (Sudath de Abrew: PPP, Sri Lanka, 1987: see Appendix 3, Selected Bibliography).

The main evaluation tools based on those for participatory monitoring, are:

1) group promoter log-books containing an overall picture of the group recordings;

2) group promoter diaries for the "private" observations and reflections on the process and results of beneficiary participation. In these diaries attention is to be given to possible difficulties, conflicts and setbacks. Logbooks and diaries help the group promoters to learn from each other's experience;

3) periodically (preferably monthly) review and evaluation meetings of group promoters;

4) periodic (e.g. quarterly) group and inter-group evaluation sessions;

5) newsletters in the local language based on information provided by the groups;

6) evaluation studies and surveys; and

7) periodic field workshops, a total reflection upon the whole field action process by project staff, beneficiaries and concerned outsiders.

The above listed cools should all be used to promote a constant two-way flow of information between groups and the project staff.

[9] I/A useful guide is e.g. "Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation: Handbook for Training Field Workers", by Alexandra Stephens and Kees Putman, FAO, Bangkok, 1988.

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