Development, conservation and humanitarian relief organizations manage their work through projects. Their offices are staffed by project teams that write project proposals, develop plans, implement activities, and track progress and impact. To thrive and succeed, these organizations need to develop the knowledge and skills to manage their projects well.
Every organization’s project management process is unique, reflecting its culture, systems, policies and programmatic activities. Nevertheless, all project management models have at least one thing in common:
Strong monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) is critical to project success.
The Guide to the MEAL DPro helps teams design, plan and implement MEAL in their projects. It provides clear, practical guidance and tools that can immediately be applied to their work.
The guide is written for project team members working in the development, humanitarian and conservation sector who are not specialists in MEAL. It is intended to benefit project officers, project administrators, project coordinators and other team members. It will also help MEAL officers who may be new to the sector or their responsibilities.
As a project team member, you might ask: “Am I responsible for MEAL? Isn’t that why we have MEAL specialists?” While project teams often have MEAL technical specialists that support their projects, good MEAL is the responsibility of everyone involved in the design, planning and implementation of a project.
You will need to understand the fundamental skills and tools that enable you to contribute to designing and planning MEAL systems, as well as collecting, analyzing and using your MEAL data. You won’t have to do all this alone. As a project manager or project team member, you will collaborate with MEAL technical specialists to ensure that your systems are strong and that your MEAL data are timely and accurate.
Remember, however, that while the role of MEAL specialists is important, your role is indispensable, because you have the practical knowledge to apply MEAL at the project level. This understanding will help you identify strong or weak systems and data, and where there are opportunities for improvement. This practical, pragmatic knowledge is critical to project success. The good news is that if you are reading this introduction, you have already taken the first step toward improving your MEAL skills.