This guidance note was developed in response to a common challenge experienced by organisations whereby they commission an impact evaluation at the end of intervention only to find that there is insufficient data about implementation, context, baselines or interim results. Dealing with impact – if deemed relevant to the type of intervention – early on in the intervention cycle helps to broaden what can be learned about the value of the intervention. It can improve the availability, timeliness and quality of data that are pertinent for decision making about the intervention. And it enables early attention to collective sense-making and appropriate interpretation of data collected as well as building in support for effective use.
The note sets out considerations and tools to help organisations decide whether it makes sense to invest time and resources into developing an impact-oriented M&E system. Specifically, integrating an impact orientation should only happen when:
- information about impact will be useful and timely to support specified decision-making needs;
- impact is deemed probable and is feasible to assess with rigor; and
- resources and capacity for collecting, analysing and interpreting impact data are adequate.
The note discusses the importance of using the Theory of Change as the foundation for impact-oriented M&E; determining impact focus based on complexity thinking; balancing emphasis on accountability and learning; prioritising impact-related information needs; and clarifying M&E roles and sequencing M&E activities.
The guide draws on the practical experiences of programme managers and staff, and those commissioning or conducting M&E of development interventions.