Program Monitoring and Evaluation

Once you have developed your social investment strategy, how do you know it is working? Will your neighbors be better off as a result of your efforts – or will your program become another case study in the long history of well-intentioned failures that fill the textbooks on rural development? And how will you determine whether these activities meet generally accepted standards for similar programs around the world? How do you respond to critics that your social investments are merely the social equivalent of “green-washing” or “corporate social responsibility PR?” And how can you make a business case for social investment if you lack data to prove good capital stewardship?

For the past 50 years, major development institutions – private foundations, charities, and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank – have experimented with and refined a range of methodologies to evaluate and improve community-level initiatives. This body of knowledge is extensive, technical and complex. From time to time, it has also undergone important paradigm shifts that significantly impact institutional priorities and investment strategies – for example, a shift from “integrated rural development” and similar approaches to “sustainable development” over the past ten years or so.

Oil and gas companies are just beginning to realize that their social investment programs will often be judged by their stakeholders against the same standards as other development efforts – and that they succeed or fail for the same reasons. Yet with rare exceptions, the private sector does not have the specialized knowledge and technical expertise to evaluate programs in time to avoid costly disappointments or unnecessary conflict.

Fortunately, program monitoring and evaluation need not be a black box. A series of steps taken before, during and after social investment programs are completed will help measure their value.

The first step is to identify appropriate benchmarks and collect baseline data before your project begins. In theory, such data might be assembled as part of your environmental impact assessment – if socioeconomic studies are correctly designed and include extensive community participation. In practice, consultation with local villages and their involvement in project design must often precede EIA work by several months or even longer.

The Terra Group usually recommends that project monitoring and evaluation should be a collaborative effort with community representatives to ensure quality control, reinforce local ownership and promote sustainability. Ongoing project monitoring assures that the project is proceeding on schedule, within budget and all of the necessary elements for success are in place. A simple set of questions for each project can be developed along with its workplan, and community representatives can take a lead role in the day to day monitoring activities.

The Terra Group has assisted several major clients in developing and applying appropriate evaluation procedures – including project benchmarks, market studies, and other tools – so that potential problems can be detected from the outset. Such tools also allow TG clients to analyze assistance projects that have been proposed by local communities and to determine which ones are most likely to succeed. TG then assists its clients in negotiating with communities until a consensus is reached and project implementation can proceed.