The right tools for the job: TPM in different contexts
The Syrian conflict will soon be entering its seventh year. The protracted nature of the conflict has demanded a shift in terms of forms of intervention. Whilst initial responses to emergency situations are usually more focused on access to basic services – still a vital resource due to the volatile nature of violent conflict- longer-term strategies are also needed. For those that might already have access to basic services, needs inevitably expand into what might be necessary for the future.
To avoid a ‘lost generation’ of Syrian youth, education in the location of resettlement as opposed to location of origin is more of a reality. Instead of supporting families with cash or vouchers, re-training to suit local job opportunities and integration into the labour market can become more of a focus. Language learning and all such longer-term strategies of aid begin to become more of a priority for willing donors. Essentially, the methods of support evolve from what is initially an emergency response to longer-term developmental aid.
So, what does this mean for monitoring and evaluation? Practically speaking, the form of aid-giving de facto changes the nature of the type of evaluation necessary. When providing information as fast as possible falls down the list of priorities, the scope of Third Party Monitoring changes. Rapid needs assessment projects might be called upon less than in-depth baseline studies for example, and there is more time to develop tools. Omar Shaban, Project Manager at Trust Consultancy & Development commented, ‘the methods don’t necessarily change, but time allows for tools to be more investigative and in-depth. We can ask more questions, focus groups can be longer and analysis can be a more considered process that involves more dialogue with the client.’ This isn’t just because there’s more time, it’s also because the nature of the projects means that impact is more complex to measure and requires further research. To evaluate whether a tangible item like a food kit has been distributed can be a simple process, like observing the exchange or asking beneficiaries simple questions. To determine the impact of an education project is a much more complex process and therefore requires extra time and resources.
With extra time, tools can also be expanded into more participatory methods of Monitoring and Evaluation that continue after initial data collection or are built into the data collection process itself, allowing for a fuller analysis that allows for more learning. In terms of TPM field team staff and enumerators, this also has an effect. Basic training in terms of taking beneficiaries through short surveys is a shorter and less skilled process than training people to lead focus groups and understand the nuances of questioning people in varying contexts. Practically speaking, this shift in emergency aid to more protracted developmental aid necessitates a more skilled workforce and a passion for digging deeper. Personally I have also had the opportunity to be involved in projects of all shapes and sizes and have enjoyed understanding the differences between them. As the nature of projects to respond to the Syrian crisis evolve, so must the methods, tools and staff involved in evaluating them.
Author: Kelly O’Donovan
Kelly O’Donovan is a British national based in Gaziantep, Turkey and is Programmes Support Officer for Trust. Kelly holds an MA in Media and Development from SOAS, University of London. Her academic research focuses on the relationship between the media and humanitarian agencies in the MENA and sub-Saharan African regions. At Trust, she assists the project team with all written reports, research projects and policy creation and also works on documentation design.