July 2015 Discussion: Getting Started on New Monitoring Projects

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hi everyone and welcome to July’s monthly discussion on “Getting Started on New Monitoring Project”. I’m Allison Corkery, from the Center for Economic and Social Rights and one of the co-coordinators of the Working Group. I’ll be facilitating this month’s discussion together with Pauline Vata from Hakijamii. We’re trying a new format for our discussions this month! To encourage more peer-to-peer exchange, we’re focusing our discussions on more cross-cutting issues and hoping to ground them in a wider array of examples, shared in comments.

Last month, I had the pleasure of spending two half-days with Pauline and her colleagues in Nairobi, facilitating a skills building workshop. At the start of the workshop I asked the team: How do you decide what issues to focus on when you’re starting a new monitoring activity? How do you develop your approach to these issues? That prompted a refreshingly open, self-reflective discussion about some of the challenges the organization faces when planning projects—such as tight timeframes, top down planning, and rigid donor requirements—that can lead to a disconnect between planned activities and desired results.

Some of the tools and approaches we discussed for project planning included:

  • Defining the problem: in particular how to organize a problem map in a way that frames issues in human rights terms, using a framework like OPERA.
  • Developing an “evidence based” monitoring strategy: determining whether statements identified in a problem map are Facts, Opinions or Guesses; reframing problem statements as research questions and, when appropriate, indicators; and deciding what kind of data (secondary or primary) is possible to collect and analyze to answer those questions, given capacity constraints.
  • Linking monitoring to advocacy: As Cathy highlighted in our April Discussion, monitoring shouldn’t be an end in itself, it should fuel advocacy. Power mapping is a brainstorming tool that can help think about what stakeholders need to be influenced to achieve change and what ways they might be influenced.
  • Fostering ownership: Involving all colleagues in planning a new monitoring project—as opposed to making such decisions among top management–encouraging greater investment in its success, leading to better outcomes!

We’d love to hear whether these challenges resonate with your own experiences. If so, what new and innovative tools or approaches has your organization used to grapple with them? To get the discussion started, here are a couple of questions we’d like you to reflect upon when you share practices and experiences:

  • What are some examples of project planning tools or approaches your organization has used?
  • Which approaches have you found to be most helpful? What have you found challenging?
  • How have using these approaches affected your projects?

We look forward to hearing your perspectives on these questions or any other thoughts you have about getting started on a new monitoring project.

Allison Corkery
Working Group(s):