Why M&E matters for start up social change initiatives
Monitoring and Evaluation is a critical component to successful project management and indeed organizational growth. For start up social change initiatives however, M&E is often not an element that sits high on their list of priorities. More often than not M&E falls off the radar for such organizations for the simple reason that most of these projects are passion driven. The main focus for the founders and stakeholders of such initiatives is therefore on addressing the needs of the community and providing solutions to the social challenges that they encounter on a day-to-day basis.
It is for this reason that Akili Dada, through our fellowship program, works with the founders of start up social change initiatives, giving them a different perspective and helping them understand, embrace and integrate essential growth strategies as part of their project planning and development. One such important element is Monitoring and Evaluation.
By taking our fellows through an M&E training we help them reflect internally looking at how they can
- Measure their impact,
- Communicate their impact to the relevant stakeholders,
- And use the information and data that they have on hand to facilitate decision-making.
By asking these critical questions we make the case for M&E and encourage our fellows to use M&E as a tool for organizational development rather than viewing it as an externally imposed process often required by donors or funders.
So what are the benefits of M&E?
Passion driven social initiatives tend to have a bank of success stories that can be directly attributed their interventions. However what they lack is the tools to measure and communicate this impact. Indeed this was the case with 2015 Akili Dada fellow Veronica and her organization RADIC. Situated in one of Nairobi’s more popular informal settlements - Kawangware, Veronicas social change initiative seeks to transform the lives of vulnerable children by empowering them with life skills to help them lead secure, independent lives as they enter adulthood. As you can imagine tracking and measuring the impact of a behavior change based projects is not that easy.
In her words
‘The training on monitoring and evaluation has helped me clearly define my projects vision and goals. It helped me realize mistakes that I had made and offered me paths for learning and improvement, providing me a basis for questioning and testing assumptions that I had earlier made regarding the implementation of the project’
Veronica has also had the pleasure of being mentored by Kamila Wasilkowska who’s a monitoring and evaluation expert. As a result of the mentoring sessions Veronica has now developed simple tools to help her measure the impact of her project. One of the simpler tools for example is the use of written and drawing assignments to capture personal development and growth stories from her project beneficiaries who are mostly children. This has proved to be a creative and fun way to capture information around the state of well being for the children before and after the life skills trainings.
‘A good example is by a girl named Wanjiku (not her real name), who in an essay shared that as a result of our sessions, she has overcome her shyness and gathered courage to compete to be a co-host of an event in their church. Another girl also shared in an essay, that she has acquired alternative ways of managing her anger and conflict with peers. Initially she would get physical and fight with others but through our sessions has reformed.’
This has not only allowed Veronica and her team track the progress of the children over time but has provided them evidence based information to help improve the delivery of their trainings to better serve the children they work with.
Indeed M&E is a critical component for start up social change initiatives. It is our hope that through our fellowship program we would be able to reach out to more young women social innovators, empowering them to continually grow and scale their projects through learning.