Using the Lit Review process, participants explore Action & Reflective Learning
The M&E technical working group continues to be my favourite Malawian project. Last week was TWG #4 where we further developed the idea of a centralised data base system and reviewed participants mini projects to improve data collection in their work. I was particularly pleased with this latter part of the workshop.
I started with a ‘Literature review’ on Action Learning and Reflective practice. This helped them better understand some completely new theory to all of them. After this backgrounding I ran a short sociometric exercise on how long they had been practicing M&E and from this created pairs with different levels of experience.
Some of the pairs with different skill levels helping each other in their presentation
The next step was for each pair to help each other develop a 2min presentation on what they had developed in TWG #2, what they had done and to reflect on the process.
When asked to record what they had learned during the session, by far the majority referred to Action Learning in some way – some examples:
- How the action research process works to improve M&E and the learning process
- Learned from the actions taken by other M&E officers to achieve an improvement in data collection
- At least that action research/learning, one needs to reflect and act upon the identification of gaps and what has worked and what has not worked
- The application of action learning/research in day to day M&E activities and how it can help in reflection
- The concept of action research and how to apply it in my day to day activities
- What action research is and the importance of action reports
- A reflection of the data collection process.
- That I can use the action research approach to improve on data collection process of my project. It is good to get everyone involved in the process because it gets people talk the same language at the end of the day. – you plan together on what to collect and how – you implement – you reflect and then modify the tools or process where necessary.
Small steps or big goals? Not sure, probably too early to tell.
Introductory exercise at Workshop 1. My name is.. My family…. I studied……. My favourite book…..
A great joy of the year has been to facilitate the Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Working Group (M&E TWG). The organisation implements approximately 17 projects, often with multiple donors and always with a variety of reporting requirements. Thus there are currently 14 staff members who are responsible to a greater or lesser degree for the Monitoring and Evaluation of these projects. Physically they are spread out across eight districts with a 6hr drive between the extremes. The rationale for the TWG is to develop a peer learning culture to improve the quality of M&E across the organisation. To allow for travel, these six weekly one day workshops start at lunch time on a Thursday and finish lunch time the next day. We have now held three since Christmas last year, with two more before we leave Malawi.
Is this a first? Workshop participants using their mobiles as a workshop exercise.
In the first workshop I took the opportunity to pick everyones brains about how to collect some data that the UK office wanted. A participant suggested that I could get it by looking at the various surveys carried out within the projects, a problem being that there is no central record of what surveys are carried out. At this point I took great delight in being able to break all the usual rules about mobile phones in a workshop. I handed out phone credit tokens to them all and offered a prize to the one who after phoning their friends could provide a list with the most number of surveys conducted during the previous financial year.
Ranking the quality of the various elements of an M&E system across the organisation
Each participants plan to improve data collection processes in their project
In the second workshop I ran a self assessment process around the quality of each of the M&E elements in their projects. Everyone then developed a small mini project that would improve the data collection process in their project. A fascinating insight came when I asked each to describe their project, outlining the steps and how they were going to monitor progress. At this point I was asked what I meant by monitoring progress, did I mean indicators or something? That making some notes in a diary was ‘monitoring’ seemed to come as quite a surprise to them.
The following session they all gave a report back – learning set style – no suggestions, only questions. Next session I’ll ask for some evaluation.